What does the word ‘trygghet’ mean?

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Increase your vocabulary and you’ll make your writing much more precise. That’s why I provide a word of the week. Today’s word: trygghet…

When I encounter a word I don’t recognize, I sometimes feel a sense of inadequacy. As a professional writer and editor, shouldn’t I know more words? Shouldn’t my vocabulary be larger?

But those feelings disappear when the word is obviously foreign. In the novel Members Only by Sameer Pandy, trygghet fell into this foreign category. Here is how the author used it:

He had taken a trip to Sweden with a girlfriend and come across trygghet, a governing principle of Swedish social life. 

So, the word was Swedish and abstract, but otherwise I had no clues. A quick search of the internet confirmed it’s one of those difficult to translate terms (like the German word, schadenfreude, which means pleasure in the misfortune of others.)

But the synonyms that seemed closest are:

  • Absence of fear of crime
  • Safety
  • Security
  • Trust
  • Tranquility

In more detail, though, it’s a word about an intersection between national security and personal security — and it suggests that these two terms aren’t mutually exclusive. Rolf Ekéus, a former Swedish ambassador to the U.S. explained the nuances of the word in a recent post on the website Quartz.

Here is how he put it: “The direct [Swedish] translation for ‘security’ is säkerhet; in trygghet, however, there is an element of predictability, and an element of comfort and safety. It has all of these meanings, and the effect has a softness.”

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