Have you ever found yourself stumbling when referring to the Nordic, I mean, Scandinavian region? Or is it Nordic? Don’t feel bad if you’re confused. A search on the internet will show you that there are many, many, many differing opinions on this matter.

In short, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Denmark are all Nordic countries with Scandinavian roots but on a day-to-day basis, generally, you’ll find that Norwegian, Danish, and Swedish people will refer to themselves as “Scandinavian.” So perhaps it could be said that “all Scandinavian countries are Nordic but not all Nordic countries are Scandinavian.” 

Winter Lapland Reindeer sledge racing in Ruka, in Finland

What is Nordic?

“Nordic” translates to “of the North” and has a more broad geographical focus. The countries that are regularly identified as Nordic have a fairly common historic and ethnic background although Finland and the Sami minorities do not share the same ethnic background as the others and yet are still grouped as part of the region. The Faroe Islands and Greenland are also part of the Nordic umbrella as are some other smaller islands. While the Icelandic language is distantly related to the Scandinavian languages, Finnish belongs to the Finno-Urgic language branch which also contains Estonian and Hungarian.

What is Scandinavia?

“Scandinavian” means “of Scandinavia” and refers to the Scandinavian and Jutland peninsulas, the Danish Islands in between, and the Swedish archipelago. These are the three countries around the seas of Skagerrak and Kattegat and have similar North Germanic languages which stem from their strong Norse roots. 


While it’s a nice gesture to try to use the proper identifier if you stumble with “Scandinavian” v. “Nordic,” you aren’t alone and you can be fairly confident that offense will not be taken as the lines are blurry, even for those living in the area.

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