The name says it

You have probably noticed that almost all the names on the maps and signs are in Sámi. The names in Laponia bear many memories and often tell of what the area looks like or who it was who lived here.

Apmut Ivar Kuoljok talks of the meaning of names.

In Laponia the languages are Lule Sámi and North Sámi. If you learn to understand what the names mean, you often understand better what type of landscape you are in. The names often tell a story.

If you learn what the Sámi names mean, you often see the landscape in front of you just by looking at the words. This is because the Sámi names often describe the terrain, a place, an area or something of is history.

The names are often compound words, for example Guhkesvágge = the long valley.

In some cases the names are so old that we no longer know why a place is called what it is.

The terms for location and direction on the map are not about compass directions, but are linked to hiking trails. Alep for example means upstream on a river, above/beyond low land and winter land. Lulep means downstream, down towards the forests.

This is a list of nature terms in Lule Sámi naturord, compiled by Hans Andersson and Olavi Korhonen in the book ”Sámi place names near roads and trails in Lule Lapland”.




áhpe = (stor) wetland, large marsh

alep = higher. More westerly (in names: western)

alle- = west (in compound words)

ára = boulder strewn land (áras)

ávrre (jávrre) = lake

ávttje = crevice, canyon

ávttso = mixed forest on moist ground


badje = over-, upper

bahta = end; the innermost part of a bay

bajeldus = the highest part of the mountain, fell

bajep = upper, that which is higher

bákte = cliff

bállte = slope, hill

basse = helig; helig plats

biehtse = tall

biesske = narrow promontory (between lakes and watercourses)

boarkka =deep hollow in mountain ridge, mountain pass

buollda = mountain side, slope (without watercourses)

buollem = steep place

buollja = open and forested place (often at the top of mountains in forestland)

buovdda = mountain which is bare at the summit

båhke = ”neck”, narrow place on the marsh or in a valley

bållne = little hill

bårre = crown, mountain ridge or fell ridge


diermme = steep shoreline slope

dievvá = hill, slope

duottar = low, bare fell


ednam = land, terrain


gádde = shore

gajbba =over-protruding boulder

gájrrá = wedge, wedge-formed terrain

gájsse = pointed mountain summit, high steep mountain

gálav = ford, wading place

gállo = rock, boulder

gaskka = between, middle, the place in between

gávva = hook, bay, gulf

gelnav = grassy plain

giedde = natural meadow, pasture

giehtje = end, point

gielas = pine moor, ridge

giera = upper part, as of a river

giergge = stone

gieva = waterlogged marsh

goabrre = over-protruding boulder

guhkes = long

guoblla = over-protruding snowdrift, (projecting) cliff

guojkka = rapids

guorbba = burnt area

gurra = narrow hollow or furrow

gurssjo = deep, narrow crevice

gåbbå = hill or little mountain

gåhpe = round hollow, pit

gållo = wide crack in ice, boulder

gårrå = long ridge with pine forest

gårttje = waterfall


hávrre = lake (same as jávrre)

huornnásj = side mountain, side fell (on higher fell)

hällo = flat rock


jalgga = flat ground

jávrásj = little lake

jávrre = lake

jiegge = small marsh (also spelt jägge)

jiegŋa = ice, glacier

jiehkke = glacier (also spelt jähkke)

jierttá = fell, lake, island this is round seen from above

juovva = terrain strewn with boulders, large rocks

jågåsj = little brook or stream

jåhkå= brook, stream

jårbbå = round


ladnja = small cliff ledge

láhko = flat plateau, high plain

lájrre = clay

lánnda = land (area)

liehke = little valley or hollow

lulemus = further east

lulep = further east, eastern, easterly

lulle = eastern, easterly

luokta = bay

luopppal = tarn or extension of stream or river

lusspe = top of rapids

låbddå = extended mountain ledge


mielle = steep river bank

muorkke = isthmus, stretch of land between waters

måhkke = hook, bend, in a part of a bay

måsko = closed, enclosed

måsske = closed valley, concave part of mountain; closed watercourse


njálmme = mouse of stream or river

njárgga = promontory, point

njavve = current (not white-water)

njiráv = stony precipice

njoasske = hollow between mountains or in a mountain ridge

njunjes = mountain or fell spur

njunnje = point, low mountain spur

noallda = mountain hillock, round hill

nulppe = unforested rock hillock (at the end of a mountain)

nuoramus = northernmost

nuortap/nuortta =  north, northern


oagge = backwater

oajvásj = little round mountain

oajvve = head; mountain with round contours

oalgásj = little mountain spur or mountain ridge

oalgge = fell ridge from larger fell

oarjemus = south, southernmost

oarjep = south, southern (south-western)

oarjje- = south, southern (south-western)


rábma = grassy slope

rájrre = clay

rido = landslide, avalanche

riebme = shallow but fast current in river, flatwater

riehppe = basin

rijdda = steep grassy slope below cliff

roavve = burnt mountain area

ruohto = marshy ground (or a mountain)

ruovdásj = river ravine

rågge = pit, trench (in terrain)

råhtje = narrow valley with stream

råhto = osier, dense brush below a mountain


sájvva = sacred lake, sacred mountain

sálla = crevice, cleft, furrow

sáttoj = sand

savoj/savon = flat water in a river

siejdde = sacrificial stone

siergga = willow

sjkuhtje = narrow valley (between mountain ridges)

sjnjássjka = even, wide spur from the lower part of the mountain

sjnjutje/ sjnjurttje = peak, point, summit(of a mountain, etc.)

sjpádnjo = birch thicket, birch grove

skájdde = river promontory, where watercourses meet

skåhppe = sack-shaped hollow in a mountainside

sláddo = little pond

slieŋŋke = little valley, hollow

slädo/slähto = stony fordable place

stuor(-), stuorra = big

suoloj = island

suorgge = branch, fork


tjavdda = mountain without steep sides

tjavelk = ??landrygg, bergrygg

tjievrre = gravel, stony terrain

tjoalmme = strait

tjåhkkå = summit

tjårro = ??bergrygg, fjällrygg, ås

tjärro = low fell near edge of a forest (in the north, also Sámi community)


uksa = gateway

unna = little


vágge = mountain valley

vahta = unforested plain or moor

vallda = grassy mountain moor

válle = long easterly mountain slope

várásj = little mountain, fell

várddo = mountain height with a good view

várre = mountain, fell

vielmes = flat water in a stream or river

vierra = ridge (long with regular slopes)

vuobme = deciduous forest, forestland as opposed to mountain

vuodna = fjord

vuohppe = bay with narrow mouth

vuojadahka/vuojadak/vuojat = crossing for swimming reindeer

vuolep = lower

vuolle- = lower, which is lower or below

vuovdde = forest, forested land


årddå = treeline

åvddå = front, forward


Ädno = stream, river