Finnish for busy people

Tuiki Tuiki Tähtönen – Finnish Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

Here’s another international children’s song! It’s helpful to know the tune of a song when learning the Finnish lyrics, so translated songs are useful for that.

In this article, we look at a very simple song: Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. In Finnish, the song’s name is Tuiki tuiki tähtönen. You can listen to it here or here on YouTube.

1. About the Song

Tuiki, tuiki, tähtönen (in English Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star) is an international song. It’s a combination of a French song (Ah! Vous dirai-je, Maman) and an English poem (The Star by Jane Taylor). The Finnish lyrics to the song were made by Maisa Krokfors.

The tune of this song is also used in other Finnish songs! I will be adding the lyrics to Koska meitä kasketaan at the end of this article. The version I’m analyzing matches the English song more closely.

2. Song Lyrics of Tuiki Tuiki Tähtönen

Below you can find both the Finnish lyrics and the English lyrics. Note that these lyrics don’t match up with each other very well. You can find the literal meaning of the lyrics further below, where I’ve analyzed them.

I’m including both the first and the second verse of this song, although I must admit I’m not really familiar with the second verse.

♬ Finnish song lyrics ♬ English lyrics
Tuiki, tuiki, tähtönen,
iltaisin sua katselen.
Korkealla loistat vaan,
katsot alas maailmaan.
Tuiki, tuiki tähtönen,
iltaisin sua katselen.
Twinkle, twinkle, little star
How I wonder what you are
Up above the world so high
Like a diamond in the sky
Twinkle, twinkle little star
How I wonder what you are
Kaikki lapset maailman,
tähtösiä katsovat.
Miettivät miks loistaa ne,
maahan asti valaisee.
Kaikki lapset maailman,
tähtösiä katsovat.
When the blazing sun is gone
When he nothing shines upon
Then you show your little light
Twinkle, twinkle, all the night
Twinkle, twinkle, little star
How I wonder what you are

3. Glossary

The following grammar terms have been abbreviated.

  • sg2: second person singular
  • pl3: third person plural

I have marked different elements of the analysis using the following symbols.

  • in italics: base word
  • (in brackets): translation
  • <symbol: derived from

4. Tuiki tuiki tähtönen – Finnish Song Analyzed

Tuiki, tuiki, tähtönen, iltaisin sua katselen
Tuiki tukkia (to twinkle), imperative form: “twinkle!”
tähtönen star
iltaisin in the evenings
sua <sinua (you), in the partitive case because of katsella
katselen katsella (to watch),  sg1 present tense, partitive verb: [katsella + partitive]
Literally: Twinkle, twinkle, star, in the evenings I watch you
English: Twinkle, twinkle, little star, how I wonder what you are

The regular word for “star” in Finnish is tähti. The word tähtönen is a derivation with the derivational element -nen. Adding -nen to create new nouns often has a deminutive function: tyttö (girl) > tyttönen (little girl). Using tähtönen in the song makes sense, because the English version has “little star”. Other possible translations for “little star” could have been “pieni tähti” or “pikkutähti“.

“Evening” in Finnish is ilta, and “in the evening” would be illalla. Adding -isin changes the meaning to “in the evenings”, plural. You can read more about adverbs ending in -isin here.

“To watch” in Finnish is usually katsoa. The verb katsella can have multiple meanings, but in this context probably means watching something for extended periods of time.

Note how the English “how you wonder what you are” doesn’t match up with the Finnish lyrics at all. This is due to the fact that this is a song: the amount of syllables is more important than the lyrics here. If we would be translating “how I wonder what you are” directly, it would say “kuinka ihmettelen mikä sinä olet“.

Korkealla loistat vaan
Korkealla korkea (high), in the adessive case (millä) “up high”
loistat loistaa (to shine), sg2 present tense “you shine”
vaan just
Literally: Up high you just shine
Original: Up above the world so high

The adjective korkea “high” is used when describing, for example, tall buildings. Adding -lla makes it an adverb which means “up high”.

The literal translation of “Up above the world so high” would be something like “Niin korkealla maailman yläpuolella“.

katsot alas maailmaan
katsot katsoa (to watch), sg2 present tense “you watch, look”
alas down, mihin form of alhaalla
maailmaan maailma (world), mihin form “into the world”
Literally: You look down on the world
Original: Like a diamond in the sky

Alhaalla, alhaalta and alas are the three possible forms (missä, mistä and mihin) of this adverb which means “down”. Alas is the mihin form, which expresses a movement towards something. When you’re watching down on something, your gaze is moving in the direction of the thing.

The word maailma is also in the mihin form in this sentence for the very same reason: the star’s gaze is moving towards the world.

The literal translation of “like a diamond in the sky” would have been “kuin timantti taivaalla“.

(Repetition of the first lines: Tuiki, tuiki, tähtönen, iltaisin sua katselen.)

Kaikki lapset maailman tähtösiä katsovat
Kaikki all
lapset lapsi (child), in the T-plural “the children”
maailman maailma (world), in the genitive case “the world’s”
tähtösiä tähtönen (star), plural partitive, object of katsoa “the stars”
katsovat katsoa (to watch), pl3 present tense, partitive verb “(they) watch”
Literally: All the children of the world watch the stars
English: When the blazing sun is gone, when he nothing shines upon

The word order in this section could be simplified: Kaikki maailman lapset katsovat tähtösiä. You can read more about the word kaikki and its many uses here.

The literal translation of the English lyrics would go something like: “Kun paahtava aurinko on poissa, kun se ei loista mihinkään“.

Miettivät miks loistaa ne, maahan asti valaisee
Miettivät miettiä (to think), pl3 present tense “they think”
miks <miksi (why), spoken language
loistaa loistaa (to shine), would normally be loistavat “they shine”
ne they (demonstrative pronoun)
maahan maa (ground), mihin form because of asti
asti up to, rection: [mihin + asti]
valaisee valaista (to light, illuminate), would normally be valaisevat
Literally: They think why they shine, light up to the ground
English: Then you show your little light, twinkle, twinkle, all the night

Two of the verbs in this section appear in the singular third person, but in written Finnish would actually require the plural form: Ne loistavat “they shine”, ne valaisevat “they light, illuminate”. Both are connected to ne “they”, which in this sentence means the stars.

Asti is a postposition which can be used with both the mihin form and the mistä form. In this case, the mihin form “maahan” is used to express the direction of the light: maahan asti “towards (up to) the ground”. If a light shines in the other direction, ie. away from the ground, we would say maasta asti “from the ground”. Asti can also be used when talking about time: [jouluun asti] “up until Christmas” and [joulusta asti] “from Christmas (onward)”.

(Repetition of the first lines: Kaikki lapset maailman tähtösiä katsovat.)

5. Alternative lyrics: Koska meitä käsketään

This version is an old school song, which explains the lyrics to some extent: it’s focused on learning things in school and also has multiple references to God. Listen to this version of the song here.

♬ Finnish song lyrics ♬ Translated to English
Koska meitä käsketään
mielehemme painamaan
opetukset, jotka meitä
ohjaa tiedon, taidon teitä,
niin me kaiken ikämme
muistissa ne pidämme.
Because we’re ordered
to commit to memory
the lessons which lead us
on the roads of knowledge and skills,
thus we our entire life
will keep them in our memory.
Ahkerat ja siivot me
aina olla tahdomme,
nöyrät myös ja kuuliaiset,
Luojahamme luottavaiset,
joka ain´on armostaan
valmis avun antamaan.
Hard-working and decent, we
always want to be,
also humble and obedient,
Trusting in our creator,
who is always in his grace
ready to provide help.
Pikku taulut, kirjaset
meille ovat mieluiset;
niistä monet opit saamme,
tuta myös Jumalaamme;
tätä koulu tarkoittaa,
tähän meitä kasvattaa.
Little tablets, booklets
are pleasing to us;
from them we learn many lessons,
also to know our God;
this is what school means,
that’s what we are raised for.

So that’s the song Twinkle Twinkle Little star in Finnish! I hope you enjoyed this content. As always, you can comment with song suggestions you’d like me to cover next.

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