Old Swedish Dictionary

Online version of the "Ordbok Öfver svenska medeltids-språket", the dictionary of Medieval Swedish by K.F Söderwall.

The dictionary contains over 40 000 translations from Old Swedish to Swedish. This is the largest dictionary of the language.

Search the dictionary

What is Old Swedish?

Old Swedish was a language spoken in Sweden (and Finland) from 1225 to 1526. It is the middle stage between Old East Norse (language of the Vikings) and modern Swedish.

Early Old Swedish was markedly different from modern Sweden: it had a more complex case structure and also still had the original Germanic three-gender system. Nouns, adjectives, pronouns and certain numerals were inflected in four cases.

A sample of Old Swedish, early 13th century, from Westrogothic law:

Dræpær maþar svænskan man eller smalenskæn, innan konongsrikis man, eigh væstgøskan, bøte firi atta ørtogher ok þrettan markær ok ænga ætar bot. Dræpar maþær danskan man allæ noræn man, bøte niv markum. Dræpær maþær vtlænskan man, eigh ma frid flyia or landi sinu oc j æth hans.

Translates to English as:

If someone slays a Swede or a Smålander, a man from the kingdom, but not a West Geat, he will pay eight örtugar and thirteen marks, but no wergild. If someone slays a Dane or a Norwegian, he will pay nine marks. If someone slays a foreigner, he shall not be banished and have to flee to his clan.

Written language of the dictionary

The dictionary volumes were published in the turn of 19th and 20th centuries. This was transition period between Modern Swedish (nysvensk = "new Swedish") and Contemporary Swedish (nusvensk = "now Swedish").

Therefore, the written language of the dictionary may seem old fashioned even outside the parts that are written in Old Swedish (fornsvensk = "ancient Swedish").

Also, Old Swedish used some letters that are no longer used in modern Swedish. Namely, æ and ø were used for modern ä and ö, and þ could be used for both ð and th sound. While in Söderwall's dictionary modern ä and ö are always used, this online version will also always provide the alternative older spelling.