Denmark Language and Languages

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As you search for your ancestors from Denmark, you will find most materials are written in Danish. Although you do not need to speak or read Danish in order to do research in Danish records, you do need some knowledge of the language to understand the records. You may also find some Latin and German in Danish records.

Because Danish grammar may affect the way words appear in the records, the words in a dictionary or word list may be slightly different.

Language Aids

The Family History Library has published a Danish-English list of genealogical words. The list is available for a nominal fee. A Danish-English dictionary can also help you in your research. You can find the word list, dictionaries, and similar language aids at many research libraries.

The following are useful dictionaries:

Magnussen, Johs., Otto Madsen, and Herman Vinterberg. McKay's Modern Danish-English-English Danish Dictionary. New York: David McKay Co., 1954. (FHL Scand. 439.81321 M275m, film 1,440,033.)

Jensen, H. Juul. Ordbog over det Danske Sprog (Word Book of the Danish Language). København: S. L. Møllers Bogtrykkeri, 1975. (FHL Scand. 403.489 D2280, vols. 1-26.)

Additional language aids (including dictionaries of various dialects and time periods) are listed in the Place search of the Family History Library Catalog under DENMARK - LANGUAGE AND LANGUAGES and in the Subject search under DANISH LANGUAGE - DICTIONARIES.

Danish Word List

This list contains Danish words with their English translations. The words included here are those that you are likely to find in genealogical sources. If the word you are looking for is not on this list, please consult a Danish-English dictionary. (See the "Additional Resources" section below.)

Danish is a Germanic language like Swedish, Norwegian, and Icelandic. A major spelling and grammar reform was introduced in Denmark in 1953. Most differences between modern and old Danish are simply a matter of spelling. Carefully study the spelling section in "Language Characteristics" below. This will help you find the words in this list.


Variant Forms of Words

In Danish, as in English, the forms of some words will vary according to how they are used in a sentence. Who—whose—whom or marry—marries—married are examples of words in English with variant forms. The endings of a word in a document may differ from those in this list, for example:

  • Mand man Kone wife
  • Manden the man Konen the wife
  • Mænd men Koner wives
  • Mænderne the men Konerne the wives

This word list gives the standard form of each word.

Alphabetical Order

Written Danish has three additional letters: Æ (æ), Ø (ø), and Å (å). These letters are filed after A-Z alphabetically. The letter Å (å) was officially introduced in 1953, so it never appears in older records. Prior to that time it was usually written as Aa (aa) and filed at the beginning of the alphabet. Danish dictionaries and indexes, this word list, and the Locality section of the Family History Library Catalog use the following alphabetical order:

a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z æ ø å


Spelling rules were not standardized in earlier centuries. The following spelling variations are common.


  • skov spelled as schov
  • kvinde spelled as qvinde
  • Århus spelled as Aarhus


This word list includes only words most commonly found in genealogical sources. For further help, use a Danish-English dictionary. Several Danish-English dictionaries are available at the Family History Library. These are in the Scandinavian collection. Their call numbers begin with 439.81321.

The following dictionary is also available on microfilm for use in Family History Centers:

Magnussen, Johannes Julius. McKay's Modern English-Danish, Danish-English Dictionary. New York: David McKay, 1957. (FHL book 439.81321 M275m; film 1,440,033, item 1.)

Additional dictionaries are listed in the Subject section of the Family History Library Catalog under DANISH LANGUAGE - DICTIONARIES or in the Place search under DENMARK - LANGUAGE AND LANGUAGES.


To find and use specific types of Danish records, you will need to know some key words in Danish. This section gives key genealogical terms in English and the Danish words with the same or similar meanings.

For example, in the first column you will find the English word marriage. In the second column you will find Danish words with meanings such as marry, marriage, wedding, wedlock, unite, legitimate, joined, and other words used in Danish records to indicate marriage.


English Danish banns trolovede, trolovelse, forlovelse
births fødte, født
burials begravede, begravelse, jordet
census folketælling
child barn
christenings døpte, døbt, daab
confirmations konfirmerede
deaths døde, død
father fader, far
female kvindekjøn (køn), pige
husband mand, husbonde, husfader
index register
male mandkjøn (køn), drenge
marriages copulerede, vielse, ægteviede, bryllup
military militær
mother moder, mor
moving in tilgangsliste, inflytning
moving out avgangsliste, udflytning
name, given navne
name, surname efternavne
parents forældre
parish sogn
vaccinations vaccinerede
wife hustru, husmoder, kone, kvinde
year år, anno