Finnish for busy people

Finnish Alcohol Vocabulary – Alkoholi

Name five very Finnish things or habits! Was alcohol on your list? Well, it should be! Of course there are other sides to Finland (e.g. sauna, Northern lights, tar soap, midsummer, cottages, lakes, sisu, salmiakki and Fazer), but alcohol has played a big role in Finnish culture for most of its history. On this page, I will be listing some Finnish alcohol vocabulary.

The very basics of Finnish alcohol vocabulary

Let’s start with some very basic words! You can learn the names of more beverages (both with and without alcohol) in that other article.

Finnish English
alkoholi alcohol
alkoholijuoma alcoholic beverage
alkoholipitoinen containing alcohol
alkoholipitoinen juoma alcoholic drink
alkoholiton alcohol-free
alkoholiton juoma alcohol-free drink
baari, pubi bar, pub
baaritiski bar counter
baarimikko bartender
baarimesteri bartender
oluttuoppi beer mug
viina liquor
viini wine
viinilasi wine glass
krapula hangover
oksennus, yrjö puke, vomit

Why do Finns drink so much alcohol?

Alcohol is very well-regulated in most countries, but Finland has been extra strict on alcohol usage (alkoholinkäyttö). There have been many laws restricting alcohol (alkoholilaki), such as the ban on home distilling alcohol (viinanpoltto) in the year 1756.

Additionally, in the years 1919–1932 the sale and production of alcohol was illegal (kielletty). This resulted in people smuggling (salakuljettaa) alcohol from abroad in large quantities, as well as an increase in the amount of secret home distilleries (salaviinanpoltto). So it had pretty much the opposite result of what was intended!

Below, you can find a list of Finnish verbs about drinking alcohol. My list focuses on the very core of drinking, as I have not added the hundreds of spoken language or slang verbs that are around.

Finnish English
juoda alkoholia to drink alcohol
käyttää alkoholia to use alcohol
sisältää alkoholia to contain alcohol
terästää juoma alkoholilla to spice up a drink with alcohol
polttaa viinaa salaa to brew your own booze
tislata to distill
juopotella to drink excessively
kännätä, ryypätä, pämpätä to drink excessively (spoken)
dokata to drink excessively (slang)
tissutella to drink small amounts regularly
vetää/ottaa lärvit to get drunk (spoken)
oksentaa to puke, vomit
kankkunen, kohmelo hangover (spoken)
potea krapulaa to kick a hangover
hoidella krappulaansa to treat your hangover

Laws related to alcohol consumption

Just like in most countries, minors younger than 18 (alaikäinen) are not allowed to drink alcohol. Bars that want to sell alcohol (anniskella) need to have a license (anniskelulupa). Driving under the influence of alcohol (rattijuopumus) is also forbidden.

However, Finland has one interesting law that is different from most countries, namely the alcohol store called Alko. Alko has a monopoly on selling alcohol (myydä alkoholia) when it has 5.5 per mille or more of alcohol. This system was put into place when the alcohol prohibition laws (kieltolaki) were lifted in 1932.

Finnish English
alkoholilaki Alcoholic Beverages Act
kieltolaki prohibition law
Alko the alcohol store called Alko
anniskelu to serve alcohol on the premises
anniskelulupa license to serve alcohol
anniskeluun oikeutettu licenced to serve alcohol
ikäraja age limit
alaikäinen under-age
henkkarit ID
Näytä henkkarit! Show your ID!
alkoholivero alcohol tax
alkoholirikos alcohol offense
alkoholin luvaton maahantuonti illicit import of alcohol
alkoholin luvaton myynti illicit sale of alchohol
alkoholin nauttiminen yleisellä paikalla consuming alcoholic beverages in a public place
alkometri breathalyzer
tarkkuusalkometri evidential breathalyzer
alkometrin lukema breathalyzer
promille per mille
0.5 promillea 0.5 per mille
rattijuopumus drunken driving
törkeä rattijuopumus aggravated drunken driving
ajokielto driving ban

Why is there so much Finnish alcohol vocabulary?

You could say that being drunk (olla humalassa) is part of Finnish culture. This has a long history, as liquor was commonly given to soldiers as a pick-me-up, as well as given as a reward to the workforce.

A lot of traditions and sayings are centered around alcohol. Take for example the saying “Jos ei terva, viina ja sauna auta, on tauti kuolemaksi.” (Hausjärvi , J. Sillanpää , 1936 – 37 ). It means that “If tar, liquor and sauna don’t help, the illness will be fatal.”

Being drunk (humalatila) isn’t seen as something to be ashamed of in Finnish culture. On the contrary: often it’s glorified and seen as part of being social. It removed inhibitions (poistaa estoja) and can help people get to know each other. However, the whole point of drinking for Finns is often to get drunk (tulla humalaan) rather than just drink socially.

Below, you can find a very limited list of ways to say someone is drunk (hän on humalassa). You can find extensive lists on the internet which include more spoken language and slang words. On this page, I’m limiting myself to ways that are the most commonly used.

Finnish English
ryyppyputki binge drinking
päihtynyt drunk, intoxicated
alkoholin vaikutuksen alainen under the influence of alcohol
olla hiprakassa to be tipsy
olla huppelissa to be tipsy (spoken)
olla humalassa to be drunk
olla päissään to be drunk
olla kännissä to be drunk (spoken)
olla nakit silmillä to be really drunk (slang)
olla räkäkännissä to be really drunk (slang)
olla perskännissä to be really drunk (slang)
olla kaatokännissä to be really drunk (slang)
olla nousuhumalassa to start to be properly drunk
olla laskuhumalassa to start to be less drunk

Finnish alcohol vocabulary related to alcoholism

With getting drunk being so socially accepted comes the downside that many cross the threshold of social drinking (sosiaalinen juominen) into the realm of alcohol addiction (alkoholiriippuvuus).

Finnish English
riippuvuus addiction
juoppo drunkard
juopumus drunkenness
alkoholisti alcoholic
alkoholismi alcoholism
alkoholiongelma alcohol problem
ongelmajuominen drinking problem
ongelmajuoja problem drinker
kärsiä alkoholiongelmista to suffer an alcohol problem
alkoholisoitua to become an alcoholic
rappioalkoholisti derelict
pultsari derelict (spoken)
Nimettömät alkoholistit Alcoholics Anonymous
AA-jäsenyys AA membership
alkoholistihuolto treatment of alcoholics
pakkohoito coercive treatment
toipumisohjelma recovery program
olla selvinpäin to be sober
saavuttaa raittius to become sober
pysyä raittiina to stay sober
selväpäinen sober
raitistunut alkoholisti recovered alcoholic

You could listen to a folk song about drinking alcohol next and take a look at the lyrics of the song Ei tippa tapa by Irwin Goodman!

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I was kinda expecting to find kalsarikännit here as a uniquely Finnish alcohol-related thing.

Oh well, here goes. Translation: “The feeling when you are going to get drunk home alone in your underwear – with no intention of going out.” Or, as one newspaper put it, “pantsdrunk”.

The alcohol. The isolation of doing it alone. The lack of guilt in doing it in one’s underwear. I was so proud when the kalsarikännit emoji was selected as part of the “official” set of Finland-themed emojis. The emojis can be found on: