Words We're Watching

Hygge

A quality of coziness and contentment


hygge-definition

What does hygge mean?


Hygge is a quality of coziness that makes a person feel content and comfortable. It's also often used as an adjective meaning "cozy or comfortable."

Where did hygge come from?


About mid-20th century, the Danish word hygge (pronounced something like \HEW-guh\) began appearing in English writing, as a noun and adjective, to refer to cozy and comfortable surroundings that invoke an inner sense of contentment or well-being. The Danish word carries a similar meaning, and the Danes borrowed it from Norwegian, where it has the meaning of "comfort" and "coziness."

Scenes in which hygge is evident include two people warmly snuggling by a roaring fire on a cold winter's night while sipping glogg or hot cocoa; or an intimate gathering of friends at someone's house for a candle-lit dinner, conversation, and light entertainment. In these scenes, the fire and candles are traditional elements in establishing hygge. This tradition is likely connected to the endlessly dark Nordic winters, during which people in the past found comfort and relaxation in watching their flickering dance.

How is hygge used?

But how do you actually host a hygge gathering? "You need candles," advises [Trine] Hahnemann. "It's about making sure people are welcomed right away, with something to eat and drink, unless you've invited them to help you cook." And Hahnemann stresses that this food doesn't need to be fancy. It's not about making sure everything is perfect. It's about gathering together and finding fellowship in our imperfect humanity.
— Deena Prichep, NPR.org, 21 Dec. 2017

Hygge is all about being in the moment, feeling completely relaxed and centred, letting go of the hectic world around you, either alone or with loved ones. Hygge time in Scandinavia is enjoyed after a busy day of activities. No phones and computers allowed in those magical moments.
— Ole Henriksen, quoted in Vogue (Australia), 12 Aug. 2018

Hygge is a way of living, and a way of being together and really connecting with people. It's not hygge if we're in the same room and you're doing something and I'm doing something else and we're not connected. Hygge is created when you do things together.
— Malene Rydahlm, quoted in The Australian, 17 Aug. 2018

Occasions infused with hygge might also require putting on some fuzzy slippers and wearing your hyggebukser. Michelle Dozois explains that term in her December 7, 2017 article in The New York Times:

When you're settling in for a hygge evening, everything you're wearing should be comfortable. There's even a term for your pants that are oh-so-comfortable but shouldn't be seen in public: hyggebukser.

If you haven't already done so, we encourage you to add hygge to your living space with some candles, blankets, and anything else that will provide comfort—and then have a hygge get-together.

Words We're Watching talks about words we are increasingly seeing in use but that have not yet met our criteria for entry.



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