The Icelandic language is a huge cornerstone of Icelandic culture. Due to the country’s location and the historic trend of purism when it comes to language, the language has been influenced very little by external forces. Words are rarely adopted from other languages, but rather new words are coined to refer to new concepts. As a result, the modern language spoken in Iceland is thought to be very similar to that spoken when Iceland was first settled in the ninth and tenth centuries. As a result, Icelandic is a notoriously difficult language to learn.
If you are hoping to visit the fantastic landscapes and stunning scenery of Iceland, you don’t have to worry - English has become the second language of Iceland and most people you meet will speak at least a bit of English. While it is not expected that visitors to Iceland become fluent in the Icelandic language, you might want to try your hand at a few common phrases in Icelandic to impress the locals, like a simple “hello”, “good morning”, “please” and “thank you”.
We have put together 10 common phrases in Icelandic that you can use on your next visit, along with some tips on reading and pronouncing new words.
One thing that may scare you off from pronouncing Icelandic words is the new letters of the alphabet. Icelandic has retained two archaic letters, which do not appear in the English alphabet you are used to. These are ‘Þ’ (pronounced as ‘th’) and Ð, ð (pronounced ‘eth’ or ‘edgh’). Knowing how to pronounce these new letters will help you as you see road signs and place names with unfamiliar spellings.
Another tip for pronouncing Icelandic words is that the stress of the word always goes on the first syllable. There is one exception to this in the Icelandic word for ‘hello’, which we will learn now.
Hello in Icelandic: “Halló”
This word in Icelandic is very similar to the English equivalent: “Halló” is pronounced “Hah-lo” with the stress on the second syllable of the word. Knowing how to say hello in Icelandic is a good small phrase to know when on your trip there and people will notice you making the small effort in greeting people in the native language.
Good morning in Icelandic: “Góðan daginn”
This is another relatively simple word to pronounce for an English speaker. You might notice that this phrase has one of Iceland’s distinctive old letters, meaning that the greeting is pronounced “go-thah-n die-in’. This is a more common greeting and using it will show friendliness and politeness to the people you greet.
Goodbye in Icelandic: “Bless”
“Bless” would translate better to “bye” in English. You can also repeat this word twice for a longer phrase, similar to “Goodbye” in English.
Please in Icelandic: “Vinsamlegast”
Please is a complex thing to translate into Icelandic as the language doesn’t have a direct translation. But “Vinsamlegast”, pronounced “vin-saam-leh-gast”, is used to politely ask for or request something if you wish to be polite in Iceland.
Thank you: “Takk”
“Takk” is the Icelandic equivalent of our “thanks” and is pronounced “tah-k”. There are more formal ways of thanking people, however, this should be enough for small talk and in shops and restaurants in Iceland.
This word is pronounced “af-sah-kith” and can mean both ‘sorry’ and ‘excuse me’ in Icelandic.
Now that the greetings and polite phrases have been covered, you can now feel comfortable exploring Iceland’s dining out options using your newfound phrases. But you may be after some more useful Icelandic sayings and phrases when you are out and about in Iceland. When driving in Iceland, it can be easy to get lost, particularly in bad weather. These phrases can be used to ask for help or directions.
Where is…?: “Hvar er…?” (pronounced “kva-r er?”)
Airport: “Flugvöllur” (flu-kvojt-lur)
Do you speak English?: “Talar þú ensku?” (ta-lar thoo en-sku?)
Help: “Hjálp” (hya-oolp)
You now have some common phrases at your disposal to make use of on your adventures in Iceland. Browse our fleet of cars and book your trip with us today and start practising your pronunciation!