IKEA Names II.

Back in 2003 I posted about a site “explaining a few of the basic rules of IKEA’s often bizarre-sounding product names”; now that the internet has grown and matured, I can point you to a much more comprehensive site, The IKEA Dictionary by Lars Petrus:

Part of what makes IKEA unique is their product names. Each name means something, often in a funny or ambigious way. When IKEA went international, they decided to use the same Swedish names everywhere. This makes sense from an organizational sanity standpoint, but it deprives most of the world of this particular joy.

Until now!

IKEA product names fall into a few main groups.
Proper Swedish words.
Improper Swedish words. IKEA laughs at the ‘rules’ of human language!
First names. Mostly Swedish, some Scandinavian, occasional exotic names.
Geographical names. Swedish, Danish, Norwegian or Finnish. Yes, there are patterns. Here is a map of all 320 places
A few names that defy categorization.
? Mystery names I haven’t figured out… Currently 130 out of 1362 names.

(Note that the original page has colors not reproduced above, which is why the sigla for Proper and Improper Swedish words look identical.) Via MetaFilter, where Foci for Analysis explains some of the words Petrus couldn’t:

Most of the words lacking definitions are actually old-timey names of towns, villages, hamlets, etc. Typically, they reference nature, agriculture or old professions.

KOTTEBO: KOTTE=cone, slang:individual BO=resident, dwelling, den, nest

BERGSBO: BERGS=mountain BO=resident, dwelling. den, nest


EKTORP: EK=oak TORP=cottage


  1. David Marjanović says


    Eichendorff. 🙂

  2. Oskar Sigvardsson says

    This is, indeed, one of the great pleasures of speaking Swedish, being able to walk through an IKEA and annoy your friends by saying “You like that ‘Kolja’, do you? It means ‘haddock’, you know…”

    Some of the ones he listed as unknown don’t seem very mysterious to me at all. While I can’t say that I’ve heard of them specifically, those four you listed definitely seem like Swedish place names to me (just as if I was to ask you what “Smithburg” in English means, you’d probably say that it was a placename, despite you not necessarily knowing of any place named that). I believe I’ve walked down an Ektorpsvägen (“Ektorp Road”) once or twice in my life though. It’s true for virtually all of the words marked with ?, almost all of them sound like small Swedish villages or townships.

    Some other examples:

    GYLLEN: golden (in this form usually in compounds, like “gyllenbrun”, “golden brown”). On it’s own it’s “gyllende”

    GULLUNGE: literally “cute/adorable child”, affectionate name for a child (usually used by parents)

    KARENS: it’s some sort of legal term I’ve never fully understood. I know that when you get fired, you have to take 7 “karensdagar” (“karens days”) before you can get unemployment insurance. So it’s like a “deductible”, I guess, but for time instead of money.

    LADE: it’s a bit weird, but it’s the preterite tense of the verb “lägga” (“to lay down”). so it means like “laid down”, but it looks weird without subject and object

    LANSA: “to lance”. I think, at least. I’ve never heard the word used before, but “lans” means “lance”, så using one of those would be “lansa” (“to lance”)

    LUNS: clumsy person

    SKIR: shiny and transparent, like “sheer” in English.

    SORLA: “sorl” is more or less “the noise you hear at a party of people talking, clinking glasses and having a pleasant time”, so “sorla” would mean to make that noise

    TEPPAS: Swedish boy name/nickname, though very unusual today

  3. I’ve always wanted the Pöpli.

  4. Last time I was in Ikea, some of the names seemed like English-language puns. Beddinge is the only one I can remember.Maybe that’s just apophenia. Or maybe Apophenia is an Ikea lampshade.

  5. ASTRAKAN ❞an apple variety popular in Sweden
    Really? Maybe Astrakhan? I never heard specifically about Astrakhan apples (unlike watermelons, ummmm), but why not.

  6. As Oskar says, the “mystery” named are almost all obviously place names, identifiable as such by endings like by(village), berg (hill/mountain), bo (dwelling), skär (islet), ö (Island), torp (croft), vik ( bay), ås (ridge), sjö (lake), and dal (valley). Although they are probably all real places (Ive been to a Karby and a Slätthult, and know of several Näsbys) the bames feel chosen mostly for vague connotations of bucolic wholesomeness. Think ‘sunnydale’ or ‘springfield’.

  7. Oskar Sigvardsson: KARENS: it’s some sort of legal term I’ve never fully understood. … So it’s like a “deductible”, I guess, but for time instead of money.

    German Karenz : [ad. med.L. carentia, f. carere to lack; …]

    Looks as if karens is of the same Latin origin as the German Karenz. The legal expression Karenzzeit denotes a “waiting period”. For example, when you take out an insurance policy, you are legally insured but there is an initial period of time (Karenzzeit) during which you are excluded from claiming on the policy.


  8. Your original link to me is dead – this was the post I had when I first raised the topic:


    At the time it was the most-visited post on my blog for years!

  9. Thanks, I’ll fix the link.

  10. Lade is a placename in Norway, a neighborhood in Trondheim. It was once the residence of the mighty Hlaðajarlar. The word is related to ‘load’, probably referring to its importance as a seasonal marketplace before the founding of the city on the riverbanks.

  11. Slightly disappointed to find that Lufsig seems to be missing, given his political significance in Hong Kong.

  12. Great stuff:

    In IKEA’s website for mainland China, Lufsig was featured with a Chinese name (路姆西). That name sounds perfectly fine in Mandarin. In the Cantonese dialect, though, it sounds quite similar to a profanity (mother’s c***).

    The mistake became a viral sensation after a town hall meeting on Sunday, when a protester threw a Lufsig toy at Hong Kong’s chief executive, Leung Chun-Ying. Cantonese speakers won’t have much trouble getting the joke: the phrase “throwing Lufsig” sounds like “f*** your mother.”

  13. Trond Engen says

    … but, yeah. All but a few of the undefined names seem to be toponyms. Some of the Norwegian ones are really small places, maybe gleaned from the index of a map and picked for sound rather than meaning or cultural connotations. Some, especially some of the Swedish names, are so generic in shape that they are found all over the map and could well be invented anyway.

  14. My impressiosn is that Lufsig in current Swedish is more ‘unkempt’ than ‘clumsy’ as given in a link above. It does seem to belong with verbs like luffa and lufsa which can mean ‘lumber along’ — but also ‘hitchhike.’ The classical seasonal hobo was a luffare in Swedish, and my guess is that that’s where lufsig connects semantically.

  15. David Marjanović says

    The photograph of the Lufsig-throwing protestor quickly gained media attention, and people dissatisfied with the current government rushed to local IKEAs to buy the toy and express their dissent. Within a day, Lufsig had sold out. It even got its own Facebook page featuring spoof pictures of the wolf in various locations.

    I approve.

  16. My friend the Ikea-hater describes them as “meaninglessly Swedishly-named sprockets”.

    The classical seasonal hobo was a luffare in Swedish

    It’s possible that English loafer ‘idler’, whose origin is obscure, is borrowed from luffare or some Scandinavian cognate of it. The usual conjectures that loafer < German landläufer ‘vagabond’ (which was in fact borrowed in the 18C as landloper), or that the verb loaf ‘spend time in idleness’ < alleged Low German lopen ‘saunter’, cognate with standard laufen ‘run’, are flatly rejected by the OED2. (English lope is irrelevant, being much older and < Old Norse hlaupa.) In either of the first two hypotheses, loaf would be < loafer by back formation.

  17. FWIW, kirp is Estonian for “flea”, and kirbuturg (Finnish kirpputori) is
    “flea market”. F-L-E-A, I-K-E-A?
    + sorla is what a bäck (“brook”) does.
    BTW, what’s the haal in Gyllenhaal? Just a hole?

  18. David Marjanović says

    German landläufer ‘vagabond’

    Interesting; I only know Landstreicher, as in “moves across the landscape in broad strokes”. (Strichvögel are birds that migrate only over very short distances and rather unsystematically, depending on the actual weather rather than simply the time of the year.)

    standard laufen ‘run’

    Throughout at least the northern half of Germany it means “walk”, which would make sense of Landläufer.

  19. I never heard specifically about Astrakhan apples (unlike watermelons, ummmm), but why not.

    Astrakan (~ Astrachan ~ Astrakhan) apples do exist. It’s an old cultivar, apparently of Russian origin, which was popular throughout Europe in the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries. Now pretty rare, but see here:


    (there are also White Astrachans)

  20. Trond Engen says

    Eng. ‘loafer’ from Scandinavian luffare/luffer looks odd. It would seemingly have to be recent enough to be helped by the borrowing of Eng. ‘loaf’ as loff “white bread”. Instead both the Scandinavian and the English word could be a sailor’s word gone ashore: No. luffe, Eng. ‘luff’/’loof’ “turn up against the wind; delay by turning up against the wind, etc.” This word in turn is from Du. loef or LG lôve “dead hand”

  21. Both loaf and loafer first appear in print in the 1830s, so neither very old nor fire-new. It’s unclear which came first, which is why it’s unclear whether the relationship between them is derivation or back-formation.

  22. David Marjanović says

    a sailor’s word gone ashore

    “German” Luv “the side toward the wind”, opposed to Lee.

  23. “You like that ‘Kolja’, do you? It means ‘haddock’, you know…”

    Wot, no ýsa?

  24. Smithburg is an anglicized Swedish name. I think it came from Smedborg and the immigration people changed it to Smithburg.
    My husband’s grandpa came to the US and that’s how his name became Smithburg.
    Also heard that they may have been from a place with a name like Smedgegarden…

  25. Interesting, thanks for the comment!

  26. Smedjegården?

  27. PlasticPaddy says

    Just saw this:
    Smedegaard would be the name of a farm “Smithfield” (compare English smith+garth). There would be a lot of them, possibly, and they might be too small to appear on any but very detailed maps…

  28. Thanks for reviving this; I just checked the original link and discovered that Petrus doesn’t seem to have changed it at all — it still says “Mystery names I haven’t figured out… Currently 130 out of 1362 names.” I find it odd that someone would go to all the trouble of creating such a list and then not bother to update it.

  29. Athel Cornish-Bowden says

    Until a few years ago the most northerly place I had ever been to (not counting flying) was Söderboda, in Sweden. The name means southern something or other.

  30. Apparently it is no more; Swedish Wikipedia says (per GT) “At the 2015 small-town demarcation, it turned out that the population of the town dropped to less than 50 people and the small town was dissolved.” (If that’s the same Söderboda.)

  31. Athel Cornish-Bowden says

    I’d be surprised if there were as many as 50 people living there when I went there. I forget which year it was, probably about 2005. I was staying with a friend who had a summer house on the island where it was; he took me for a drive. Söderboda was as far as we got before turning round.

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