Heil og sæl

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Heil og sæl (English: lit. healthy and happy) was a common greeting in the Norse society, then spelled heill ok sæll. It is still used in certain areas of Norway today, often as Hel og sæl.[disputed ][citation needed]


Originally a Norse greeting, “heil og sæl” had the form “heill ok sæll” when addressed to a man and “heil ok sæl” when addressed to a woman. The adjective heil (also hel) from Old Norse heill, means whole or healthy. Other versions were “ver heill ok sæll” (lit. be healthy and happy) and simply “heill” (lit. healthy).[1]

The Norwegian adjective heil (also hel) is related to the English adjective whole/hale. The Norwegian verb heile (also hele) is related to the English verb heal through their common origin, the Germanic word stem *haila-, from which even the German verb heilen descends.

The Norwegian adjective sæl, meaning happy or glad, is in Old English documented only in the negated variant unsǣle, meaning evil.[2]

20th-century use[edit]

During the 1940–1945 German occupation of Norway, National Unification, being the governing and only legal political party, sought to introduce all parts of society to a greeting combining “heil og sæl” and a raised right hand. Whilst the attempt was not successful, the said greeting remained compulsory for party members and police.

According to Store norske leksikon, the originally Norse greeting “heill ok sæll” was—adjusted to modern orthography and pronunciation—adopted as “heil og sæl” by the political party National Unification.[3] According to Bokmålsordboka, the adoption was inspired by Germany's “Heil Hitler” and similar.[4]


  1. ^ Heggstad 2012:254.
  2. ^ Bjorvand & Lindemand 2001:900.
  3. ^ Store norske leksikon: heil
  4. ^ Bokmålsordboka: heil


  • Bjorvand, Harald and Lindemand, Fredrik Otto: Våre arveord : Etymologisk ordbok 2nd edition. 2001, Oslo. Novus forlag. ISBN 82-7099-319-0
  • Heggstad, Leiv et al.: Norrøn ordbok 5th edition. 2012, Oslo. Det Norske Samlaget. ISBN 978-82-521-7150-1