Icelandic weather expressions

windsack in Reykjavík harbor

Weather was crazy over the weekend in Reykjavík – even for Icelandic standards. It was so crazy you got soaked by the rain within 5 seconds being outside as the storm is giving you the full rain dose: horizontal, vertical and buttom-up. While you try to walk a straight line without being pushed out of your way by the gusts, you simultaneously struggle to keep your eyes open and them from being scratched out by the rain. This kind of weather – I learned from my friend Gurrý – has a name and is called “Slagveður”. Icelandic has a lot of such expressions for weather for obvious reasons and I would like to share some of them today with you:

This literally translates to “hitting weather” and means that the gusts of wind are so powerful and sudden as if they are trying to hit you. This is especially dreadful when accompanied by rain, snow or even worse: hail. My parents and me got introduced to this kind of weather once we visited the notoriously windy Reykjanes peninsula and hail joined abruptly. We weren’t far from our car when it hit, but it gave us a good grate of the face.

Rok og rigning
Rok in Icelandic doesn’t refer to the music genre, but means gale and the combination “rok og rigning” is describing crazy weather with rain and gale, however it is a little softer version of Slagveður. Kind of the preliminary stage to it. This is a rather “normal” Icelandic weather pattern and believe me it is just ‘lovely’, I have tested it several times – getting all soaked in a blink of an eye and then quick-frozen by the arctic wind. You should try it when you visit Iceland 😉


wind is a constant in Iceland
Wind is a constant in Iceland, it has rarely calm weather around here

Window weather (gluggaveður) is a type of weather that has tricked me more than once. To be honest it actually keeps on tricking me, even though I should – after 4 years living in Iceland – know better. How does window weather trick me? Well, I sit in my warm apartement, check the weather by looking out of the window. I have encountered three scenarios of gluggaveður so far.

  1. Gluggaveður-Scenario 1: I underestimated the wind speed. Since Iceland is technically treeless you usually don’t see how windy it is outside and windy in Iceland always translates to chilly.
  2. Gluggaveður-Scenario 2: It is summer, you watch out of your window and see sun – your European brain tells you it must be warm outside, but you are soon to be fooled by frosty 12°C – at best.
  3. Gluggaveður-Scenario 3: The weather is actually wonderful right now – neither frosty nor windy. You think “Checkpot”. Only to find out 5 minutes later the weather changed to horriffic the moment you will step outside.

Snjór hundslappadrífa
This expression means “it is snowing dog paw-sized snow flakes”. It is this kind of peaceful snowfall, which is falling silently in perfect calm straight from Mother Holle directly onto a winter wonderland landscape. This is a rather seldom phenomen since wind in Iceland is normality.

Kóf is a kind of snow that is falling so densly, that it will block the view. In contrast to hundslappadrífa it isn’t all pitoresque and serene, but usually comes with a little more wind.

With the winter only just beginning, I am sure I will continue this list with crazy-weather-expressions. Do you know any weather expressions in Icelandic or have any funny phrase in your language?

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