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Perkele (Finnish: [ˈperkele] (About this sound listen)) means devil in modern Finnish and is a popular profanity.[1] Some researchers consider 'Perkele' to be an original name of the thunder god Ukko, the chief god of the Finnish pagan pantheon,[2] but this view is not shared by all researchers.[3] There are related words in other Balto-Finnic languages: in Estonian, põrgu means hell, in Karelian perkeleh means an evil spirit.[4][5]


The name is of Indo-European origin. Related gods from other areas are Perkūnas (Lithuania), Pērkons (Latvia), Percunis (Prussia), Piarun (Belarus), Peko or Pekolasõ (Estonia), Parjanya (India) and Perun or Piorun (Bulgaria, Croatia, Poland, Russia, Ukraine, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia).


It has a history of being used as a curse: a cry for the god for strength. It still is a common curse word in vernacular Finnish. To a Finn, the word entails seriousness and potency that more lightly used curses lack. Also, when the Research Institute for the Languages of Finland held a popular contest to nominate the "most energizing" word in the Finnish language, one of the suggestions was Perkele because "it is the curse word that gave the most strength for the reconstruction of Finland after the wars." For comparison, "Parom" a corrupted form of the name "Perun", is used as a mild curse in Slovak language - "Do Paroma!" is roughly equivalent to perkele in Finnish.[citation needed]

Introduction of Christianity[edit]

As Finland was Christianized, the Catholic Church started to demonise the old Finnish deities. This led to the use of "Perkele" as a translation for "Devil" in the Finnish translation of the Bible. Later, in a 1992 translation, the word was rendered as paholainen (the evil one).

Uses in popular culture[edit]

Many Finnish heavy metal bands like Impaled Nazarene, Norther and Pepe Deluxe use the word perkele for emphasis and to reference Finnishness, while another Finnish metal band, Amorphis, have a song titled "Perkele (The God of Fire)", the sixth track on their album Eclipse.

The Swedish Oi! band Perkele were formed in 1993 in Gothenburg and are currently signed to Oi! the Boat Records.

In Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home a Finnish-speaking Norwegian whaler crew can be heard exclaiming 'Perkele!' after the Klingon Bird of Prey decloaks ahead of the whaling vessel.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kielitoimiston sanakirja. Kotimaisten kielten tutkimuskeskus. 2006. ISBN 952-5446-20-4.
  2. ^ Siikala, Anna-Leena (2013). Itämerensuomalaisten mytologia. Helsinki: SKS.
  3. ^ Salo, Unto (1990). Agricola's Ukko in the light of archeology. A chronological and interpretative study of ancient Finnish religion: Old Norse and Finnish religions and cultic place-names. Turku. ISBN 951-649-695-4.
  4. ^ "Miten suomalaiset kiroilivat ennen kristinuskoa?". Retrieved 2015-12-25.
  5. ^ Suomen kielen etymologinen sanakirja. 3. Helsinki: Suomalais-ugrilainen seura. 1976. ISBN 951-9019-16-2.
  6. ^ Schwarzmann, Phil. "Finnish in Star Trek". Retrieved 31 March 2014.