Danish ‘Word of the Year’ 2020


Towards the end of each year, Dansk Sprognævn (the Danish Language Council) and P1 radio station select Denmark’s word of the year. Inevitably capturing the (sometimes unflattering) mood of the times, previous winners have included klimatosse (“climate idiot”) in 2019 and hvidvask (“money laundering”) in 2018. Find out what became the Danish “Word of the Year” 2020.

The country that introduced the world to “hygge” now has another term for us: “samfundssind” – which is loosely translated as “community spirit” or “social mindedness”. The Danish Language Council defines it as “putting the concern of society higher than one’s own interests”.

This term has become more and more relevant during the time of COVID-19 and by searching a database of Danish news, the language council found that usage of “samfundssind” increased from just 23 times in February to 2,855 in March.

Danish ‘Word of the Year’ 2020
samfundssind” is loosely translated as “community spirit” or “social mindedness”

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In March, the term was used by Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, who noted a press conference: “We have to stand together by keeping our distance… We need community spirit. We need help. I would like to thank … all who have so far shown that this is exactly what we have in Denmark — samfundssind.”

And the Danish people and companies responded immediately, with private companies getting medical equipment to help alleviate some of the pressure on healthcare services, part of the Denmark Helping Denmark campaign, prompting the  Danish Medicines Agency’s Director General Thomas Senderovitz to commend them, saying the response showed “incredible goodwill and community spirit,” according to the BBC.

“There is a strong tradition of community spirit in Denmark,” said Eva Skafte Jensen, senior researcher at the Danish Language Council. “In the 19th Century, this was seen in the way people in the countryside established andelsbevægelsen (co-operatives) focused on common goals. Dairy farmers would team up to finance jointly owned dairies [and] farmers and other country people would form consumer co-ops, thus circumventing the monopoly of private merchants of groceries… This idea was also brought into the workers’ movements where it helped to build strong unions.”

Related: Danish Happiness Explained

Danish ‘Word of the Year’ 2020
Double Michelin-starred restaurant, Alchemist, began cooking pasta for 12 homeless shelters in Copenhagen

In 2020, the Lego factory manufactured visors for healthcare workers; the amusement park Tivoli Gardens turned into a temporary kindergarten; and double Michelin-starred restaurant, Alchemist, began cooking pasta for 12 homeless shelters in Copenhagen. As the BBC notes that while the word is now used on social media as a hashtag to highlight kind acts, “perhaps most importantly, everyday people showed community spirit by following the rules.”

Danish ‘Word of the Year’ 2020, written by Tor Kjolberg

Feature image (on top): Photo by Ani KolleshiUnsplash