A few years back when HYGGE entered the English vocabulary, friends and I discussed whether there might be other Norwegian/Danish words that might become anglicised.
I have always found it fascinating how English, a language used all over the world, lacks words that are part of our everyday life back home, a country of 5 million. Dugnad is one of these words.
Fast forward a couple of years, and we are all amidst a pandemic, and never before whilst living in the UK has this word ever seemed more appropriate. Suddenly all around us there are people offering up their time to help the greater good, not looking for fame, not starting a new business, not looking to make a pound or two, simply helping each other and the community.
Dugnad is what we do in Norway when the local sports club needs its café manning, the school needs painting, or litter needs picking. Of course these acts of kindness and socialism happens here all the time, yet there is no word in one single way that describes it. All around us people are reaching out and helping, not worrying about whether it gives them anything except a proper social feeling of being part of something that makes a difference, that might make the day a little easier for someone and that helps getting a job done for the greater good of the community.
Old Norse word for help
The simplest translation to English : voluntary communal work
Other suggestion: Working together voluntarily and unpaid for the benefit of the local community.
It was made the word of the years in 2004 in Norway.
( fun fact.. Norway did indeed for years have to accept the Danish language as its written language, hence all Norwegians learn 2 written forms of the Norwegian language, Nynorsk( based on Norwegian dialects) and Bokmaal (based on Danish written language). We then choose which one we use day to day, all across Norway people choose their preference, and we need to be able to understand both.