From Iceland — Things To Do With Jæja

Things To Do With Jæja

Published November 10, 2014

Jæja is the name of the movement organizing a series of protests in front of Alþingi, the first of which took place last Monday, November 3. Another gathering has been announced today. What, exactly, does Jæja mean?

Mean is not an exact word for what Jæja does. You wouldn’t call it an exclamation either, exactly, as it demands a calm expression. The word does something, though very little or at least rather subtly. How to best explain?

Along comes, with impeccable timing, a blog post at, listing ten Icelandic words that the author, Tyler Vendetti, misses in English, with a concise explanation of each. Item number 5 is Jæja, along with which the author provides an apt account of what to do with it:

“Jæja is Iceland’s version of “um” or “like.” According to the students, the word is a common “filler” word, good for those 5-second pauses between conversation topics at dinner where discomfort slowly creeps in. Next time you’re out to eat and you reach a moment of silence, rather than fiddle with your fork for a few extra seconds or rip up another napkin, just throw out the word jæja (if you can pronounce it) and try to move on like nothing happened.”

Support The Reykjavík Grapevine!
Buy subscriptions, t-shirts and more from our shop right here!

Show Me More!