The Little Book of Icelandic

A book about one of the oldest and most complex languages in the world, and the heart and soul of the people who use it.

Icelandic is a complicated language. It’s a bloody mess grammatically, a nightmarish mishmash of inflected nouns, verbs, adjectives and pronouns, corresponding to four different cases, three different noun genders, moods, voices and constructions, plus any number of exceptions and rules that seem completely arbitrary, and very often are.

This is not a textbook. It is not about the technicalities of Icelandic. It is not even a book that will help you order a beer in a pub. (Don’t worry. You can use English for that.) Rather it is about the Icelanders’ love of their mother tongue, their zealous attempts at keeping it pure, their often-hilarious way of cobbling together vocabulary, and their idioms and proverbs that are such a strong reflection of the things they consider truly important. In short, this book presents how the very essence of the Icelandic people and their culture is reflected in their language. All in short essays that are light, humorous, and easy to read.


Among the subjects discussed in this book:

  • How the Icelandic Language Committee works to keep Icelandic pure (with mixed results)
  • How the Language Committee constructs Icelandic words for new objects or concepts
  • The various new technological terms that have entered Icelandic in recent years
  • How Icelanders curse
  • Contests held to find the most beautiful Icelandic words – and the ugliest
  • Words and phrases describing characteristics that are quintessentially Icelandic
  • Words and phrases that are excellent to know if you want to get to know the Icelanders
  • How the Icelanders’ powerful relationship with the sea is reflected in their proverbs and idioms

… and many, many more.

The book is available in three different formats: Kindle eBook, paperback, and fine quality hard cover. The hard cover version ships from Iceland, so shipping is extra. The paperback is available through your nearest Amazon site.

The Little Book of Icelandic is illustrated by Megan Herbert.

What people are saying:

“A perfect souvenir … this book is at once enlightening and entertaining, granting readers a deeper look into the fascinating heritage of the Icelandic people.” – Icelandair in-flight magazine. Full review.

“There is invaluable information to be found; such as a chapter on swearwords and one on the special benefits that come with fluency in a language that next to no one understands.” – Iceland Review. Full review.


“This is a little book that is absolutely filled with witty and useful details on the Icelandic language in all its complexity and peculiar aspects.”

“If you’re a linguist, you’ll enjoy the history of the language, which is comprehensive without being pedantic. If you’re an Iceland-ophile, you’ll enjoy the deeper understanding of the language and culture. If you’re a human being, you’ll enjoy the drawings and the absolute ridiculousness of some aspects of the language, which is a universal trait. Highly recommend!”

“Alda does an excellent job of explaining the cultural context and history behind the craziest idioms. The other thing I love about this book is Alda’s conversational style of writing and the humor she infuses in her writing. It’s extremely entertaining – definitely a difficult book to put down. In summary, this book is a must read if you are planning a trip to Iceland.”

“A wholly enjoyable read. As a non-native speaker, I found the Little Book of Icelandic to be delightfully and quirkily informative and full of fun.”

“This book was very interesting. I didn’t realize the Icelandic language was so challenging! I look forward to reading Alda’s other books written about the Icelanders!”