Heil og sæl

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Heil og sæl (English: lit. healthy and happy) is a common greeting in Iceland.


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. 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]

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 Nasjonal Samling.[3] According to Bokmålsordboka, the adoption was inspired by Germany's “Heil Hitler” and similar.[4]

During the 1940–1945 German occupation of Norway, Nasjonal Samling, 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. It has subsequently remained closely associated with nationalism.


  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