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How do you say “sauna?”

Sauna is the Finnish word for both the bathing method that involves a repetition of heat, steam and cold, and the dedicated structure (or space) that houses the activity. It’s one of the few Finnish words that has made its way into the English dictionary and vocabulary.

Because sauna holds such a special—even sacred—place in the hearts of Finnish people, it is important that the word is respected enough to be pronounced properly.

It’s “saw-nuh,” yeah?

No, it’s not. The Finnish language is known to be difficult to learn, but this one word, sauna, should be easy enough to master.

It is natural for Americans to pronounce it as saw-nuh, rhyming with fauna, but the word should really have an “ow” sound, as in sow-nuh. How, now, brown, sauna!

In a phonetic language such as Finnish, every letter is sounded, including the “u” in “sauna.” The word “sauna” refers both to the Finnish bathhouse and to the bath itself.

Bernhard Hillila

How is sauna pronounced around the world?

In reality, even Finnish people sometimes pronounce sauna as is common in English. Check out our “Word of the Day” video for a sampling of the wide range of interpretations of sauna. So, does it really matter, as long as the kiuas is hot, the löyly is on and the vihta is ready? But those are words for another day!