Denmark consistently scores high in global happiness rankings, and in hopes of cracking the Danes' secret, many people around the world have focused on the hard-to-define word hygge (pronounced "HYU-gah"). This cultural concept, applicable in both cold and warm seasons, refers to coziness, togetherness and high-quality social interactions. The idea is to slow down, relax and value a moment of deep connection.
But while much has been made of hygge (Instagram alone has more than 4.9 million tags dedicated to it), the Danes also use another linguistic weapon to fight stress and frustration. This word is so popular — and powerful, some may argue — it was voted the nation's favorite word of 2018 out of more than 1,500 nominations.
So what is it? Repeat after me: pyt. That's right, just three little letters.
How is it used? It's an interjection — pronounced "pyd," according to The Dictionary of the Danish Language — that's apparently related to a Danish noun for "puddle" or "pool." When faced with a frustrating situation that's out of their control, Danes often utter "pyt" to dismiss the stress that might cloud their mood.
Suddenly find yourself in traffic that will make you late? Pyt, you'll get there eventually. Spilled coffee on your shirt? Pyt, it happens. The weather forecast shows rain for your outdoor dinner party? Pyt, pyt, you'll make the best of it.
As Karen Rosinger writes in an extensive BBC travel article on the popularity of the word — which she describes as "magical" — those three little letters carry enormous weight for Danes, helping people let go of things they can't change:
Some interpretations include ‘never mind’, ‘don’t worry’ or ‘forget about it’ — but these expressions don’t convey the positive aspect of the word. ‘Pyt’ is used to express that you accept a situation is out of your control, and even though you might be annoyed or frustrated, you decide not to waste unnecessary energy on thinking more about it. You accept it and move on. ‘Pyt’ is also used to comfort other people and diffuse unfortunate situations.
The word is so beloved in Denmark that some stores even sell large "PYT"-labeled buttons, which people can press at stressful times as a way of defusing their worry.
The next time life doesn't go according to plan, or something beyond your control clings to your mind, try releasing the hold these thoughts have on you by uttering the word "pyt." You might just find a bit of magic in these three letters to help you move on and conquer whatever else life throws your way.
Editor's note: This story has been updated with new information since it was published in February 2019.