Hygge (/ˈh(j)ɡə/ H(Y)OO-gə; Danish: [ˈhykə]; Norwegian: [ˇhyɡɡə]) is a Danish and Norwegian word for a mood of coziness and comfortable conviviality with feelings of wellness and contentment. As a cultural category with its sets of associated practices hygge has more or less the same meanings in Danish and Norwegian, but the notion is more central in Denmark than in Norway.[1] The emphasis on hygge as a part of Danish culture is a recent phenomenon, dating to the late 20th century.


The word hygge comes from a Danish word meaning "to give courage, comfort, joy".[2] Hygge stems from hyggja which means to think in Old Norse.[2] Hygge is built from the Old Norse word hugr which later became the hug which means the soul, mind, consciousness.[3]

But it is also speculated that hygge might originate from the word hug. Hug comes from the 1560s word hugge, which means "to embrace". The word hugge is of unknown origin but is highly associated with an Old Norse term, hygga, which means "to comfort", which comes from the word hugr, meaning "mood". In turn, the word comes from the Germanic word hugyan, which relates to the Old English hycgan, meaning "to think, consider".[4]

It first appeared in Danish writing in the 19th Century and has since evolved into the cultural idea known in Denmark and Norway today.[5] While hygge has exactly the same meaning in Norwegian as in Danish and is a widely used word in both Norway and Denmark (including in its derived forms, such as hyggelig), the emphasis specifically on "hygge" as an important part of their cultural identity is mostly a recent Danish phenomenon; in Norway "hygge" is just a word, similar in status to "cozy" in English-speaking countries.


In both Danish and Norwegian, hygge refers to "a form of everyday togetherness", "a pleasant and highly valued everyday experience of safety, equality, personal wholeness and a spontaneous social flow".[6]

The noun hygge includes something nice, cozy, safe and known, referring to a psychological state.[7]

Collins English Dictionary defines the word as "a concept, originating in Denmark, of creating cosy and convivial atmospheres that promote wellbeing."[8]

Collins English Dictionary named hygge the runner-up (after "Brexit") as word of the year in the UK in 2016.[8] This followed a period during which several books focusing on hygge had been marketed in the UK,[9] such as The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking,[10] Hygge: The Danish Art of Happiness by Marie Tourell Søderberg,[11] and The Book of Hygge: The Danish Art of Living Well by Louisa Thomsen Brits.[12]

In the Broadway musical Frozen, there is a song called ‘Hygge’, which is all about being comfortable.

In Australian soap opera Neighbours, Jemima Davies-Smythe incorporates hygge into a redesign of her half-brother Karl Kennedy's living room.

Similar words

  • The Dutch word gezelligheid has a similar concept to hygge with both pertaining to comfort and cosiness, but is often more socially oriented.
  • In German Gemütlichkeit means the state of warmth, friendliness and belonging.
  • The Norwegian adjective koselig is used to describe a feeling of warmth, intimacy and getting together in an agreeable environment.
  • The Swedish adjective mysig (and its associated noun mys) describes a pleasant and warm atmosphere of togetherness in a pleasant setting.
  • The Japanese adjective/verb mattari has a similar meaning to be/have a comfortable, calm and pleasant time, but it is also applicable to a situation being alone.

See also


  1. Gullestad, Marianne (1992). "Home Decoration as Popular Culture". The art of social relations: essays on culture, social action and everyday life in modern Norway. Oslo: Scandinavian University Press. p. 235. ISBN 8200216527. [note 12 for chapter III]
  2. Falk, Hjalmar & Torp, Alf (1903). "Hygge". Etymologisk Ordbog over det norske og det danske Sprog (in Norwegian). Kristiania: Aschehoug. p. 315.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  3. Falk, Hjalmar & Torp, Alf (1903). "Hu". Etymologisk Ordbog over det norske og det danske Sprog (in Norwegian). Kristiania: Aschehoug. p. 303.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  4. Wiking, Meik. The little book of hygge : the Danish way to live well. ISBN 9780241283912. OCLC 958463988.
  5. Parkinson, Justin (2015-10-02). "Hygge: A heart-warming lesson from Denmark". BBC News. Retrieved 2017-05-25.
  6. Interweavings – A cultural phenomenology of everyday consumption and social atmosphere within Danish middle-class families, Jeppe Trolle Linnet, 2010
  7. Hjalmar Falk og Alf Torp (1903): Etymologisk ordbog over det norske og det danske sprog. Aschehoug, Kristiania, s. 315
  8. "Top 10 Collins Word of the Year 2016". collinsdictionary.com. 2016-11-03. Retrieved 2016-11-07.
  9. Cartier-Morley, Jess (2016-10-18). "Hygge – a soothing balm for the traumas of 2016". The Guardian. Retrieved 2016-11-07.
  10. Crace, John (2016-09-11). "The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking – digested read". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2017-05-25.
  11. "Hygge". Goodreads. Retrieved 2017-05-25.
  12. Williams, Zoe (2016-09-29). "The Book of Hygge review – can the Danes really teach us how to live?". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2017-05-25.
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