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Another Danish word with no direct English translation, but it's perfect for today's world.

A word buried in the history books helped Danes mobilize during the pandemic, flattening the curve and lifting community spirit. Hygge - which roughly translates to 'a quality of coziness' - may be the most appropriated Danish word of the past decade, but it's samfundssind that's really come to define the nation in the era of Covid-19.

If hygge is something you practice with people you know, samfundssind is more of a behaviour towards those you might not know. Like hygge, there's no direct English translation of samfundssind. Marianne Rathje, senior researcher at the Danish Language Council, says you can think of it as putting the good of the greater society above your own personal interests. Danes believe this word has played a key role in the country's successful response to the pandemic, and it may just offer clues for how the rest of the world can follow suit.

Rathje says samfundssind is a compound noun of ‘samfund’ (society) and ‘sind’ (mind). It dates back to 1936, and made an historical cameo in a call for solidarity by then prime minister Thorvald Stauning at the outbreak of World War II. Thereafter, it lay in relative dormancy until Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen revived the word at a press conference on 11 March of this year announcing the first major measures to shut down the country.

She presented samfundssind to Danes as having two main pillars: collective responsibility and community spirit.

“As Danes, we usually seek community by being close together,” she said. “Now, we must stand together by keeping apart. We need samfundssind.” 

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