Uff Da Defined and Explained

My dad Harold and his brother Albin. Uff da men to the core.

Uff da was an expression I heard often growing up. It could apply to a variety of situations, some bad, some good, but it was the Norwegian version of WOW or Holy Mackerel. Internet sites are devoted to it, and post cards can be bought that have 20 occasions in which Uff Da would be appropriate to mouth.

On my earlier trip to Illinois as well as traveling in New England, when I had a chance, I’d ask people if they’d heard of Uff Da. To a person, NO.  They’d most often be interested in the use of it, and I made sure I didn’t start this conversation in a hurried situation.

Most often I’d say it was an expression of surprise but both for good news and bad news. The most effective explanation would happen if that person and I had just seen something surprising or terrible. Wikipedia explains that it shows surprise, astonishment, exhaustion, relief and sometimes dismay.

Growing up, I honestly can’t recall when I heard it or how often I heard it. It was such a natural reaction to some event, said before my mind could figure out more a more clear-cut, literate idea.

More from Wikipedia

It did originate in Norway and is used commonly in the Midwest. Various spellings, which is quite new to me are:

Uff da (sometimes also spelled huffda, uff-da, uffda, uff-dah, oofda, ufda, ufdah, oofta, or uf daa)

If anyone reading this has a similar phrase or words used in this manner in another language,  please write to me. The Yiddish words Oy Vey are used in the same situations as uff da. Please also tell me of your experience with these unique words.

And to close this out, I just searched Uff Da and found this headline:

Uff Da: Minnesota Ranks No. 1 On Most Miserable Winter List

Wisconsin and Upper Michigan can’t rank too far behind.


Below Cousin Marianne from western Norway holds a 40 pound cod she caught off the end of the dock near hear farm on Fjelberg Island. That cod? Uff Da, what a fish.

4 Replies to “Uff Da Defined and Explained”

  1. Uff da!! Thank you for the post, Loren. I love this picture of my beloved uncles.

    1. Rose, that is one of my favorite photos of them. That was taken when I was in college, I think, on a cloudy Saturday when Dad went to the home farm for something. Got several photos, should look for more. Thanks for writing, and I really enjoyed your witch photo. Still having warm thoughts about our visit with you and DAN. Will see what I can do about getting Leora, at least, out there. She’s anxious to hear about our visit. I honestly don’t recall UFF DA said a lot, but I’m thinking it was. It wasn’t UNfamiliar, I know that. Hi to Dan.

  2. Loren, if you can find it, and if you read it, there is a really fantastic book out there, called “How to Speak Minnesotan”. You’d love it, because much of it is dealing with the Minnesota dialect, and the meanings and origins of the words. Most are comprised from Norway, Denmark, Sweden, and Germany:)

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