For example, here is the word for "I" in the Old Norse dialects.

  • Old East Norse = Jak
  • Old West Norse = Ek

These words became, with a natural evolution, the following:

  • Icelandic = Ég
  • Faroese = Eg
  • Bokmål = Jeg
  • Nynorsk = Eg
  • Danish = Jeg
  • Swedish = Jag
  • Elfdalian = Ig

Here is the word for "and" in Old Norse (both dialects):

  • Old Norse = Ok

And again, the same changes occured, except for Swedish:

  • Icelandic = Og
  • Faroese = Og
  • Bokmål = Og
  • Nynorsk = Og
  • Danish = Og
  • Elfdalian = Og
  • Swedish = Och (pronounced like a k)

Why didn't this change occur in Swedish?

The same thing applies for others words like "you" ("þik" became "deg", "þig", "teg" and "dig").

  • Compare German "auch" (also, too, as well) also Berliner "och" (also also), Dutch "ook", English archaic "eke". Greek "kai" (end) has a velar, too (read kaigh, hence ogh?); Cognate "augment" and, due to the PIE root glossed "increase", I suppose, German "aufwerten" (enhence, augment) under influence of "auf" (up, open) ...
    – vectory
    Dec 7, 2018 at 12:43

2 Answers 2


In the earliest Swedish written using the Latin alphabet, such as the Äldre Västgötalagen from about 1250, the word is spelt 'ok'. It seems to have changed to 'och' during the later middle ages or early modern period, when 'decorative spelling' (dekorativ stavning) became popular. One possibility is that the modern spelling is therefore a relic of decorative spelling.

However, in contradiction to that, the Swedish Etymological Dictionary states that "Stavningen och bevarar minnet av ett forntida uttal med ach-ljud" ("the spelling och preserves the memory of an ancient pronunciation using the ach sound" [that is, a velar or uvular fricative]).

  • 2
    Do we have reason to believe that "och" used to be pronounced with a velar fricative in Swedish? Sep 28, 2018 at 12:34

When unstressed, Swedish "och" is phonetically [ɔ], which isn't any different from Norwegian "og" [ɔ]. Referencing Danish is really not that informative as Danish has voiced most of its consonants so that even if it had "*ok", it would've gone to "og" either way (a generic example: Danish vs. Swedish bog & bok 'book'). My thoughts on it are that stressed "och" preserved the hard plosive while its unstressed variant lenited it to [ɣ] which was lost almost everywhere. Irregular sound changes, sure, but those are abundant and particularly full of holes.

  • They are very close but i wouldn't say they are not different. Are you thinking of dialectal forms maybe? Western Swedish? If we speak of Rikssvenska then there is a difference between och and og.
    – Midas
    Dec 8, 2018 at 7:57
  • 2
    @Midas; my apologies as I was rather unclear; I meant (at the time) to say that their etymology isn't any different (as far as I understand/understood it at the time). The difference in usage today are later developments that are fully legitimate.
    – Darkgamma
    Jan 4, 2019 at 22:16

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