Swedish "nollställd" lost, but also empty-headed?!


Senior Member
In my Assimil Swedish course, I've the sentence "Jag är helt nollställd".
I know that the word "nollställd" has the meaning of "reset to zero", and that "Jag är helt nollställd" means "I'm completely lost/confused".
But, as far as I've checked, the construction "vara helt nollställd" is actually "to be empty-headed" in English?

Thank you!
  • MattiasNYC

    Senior Member
    I think you'll need context for this one. To me the term is used when describing how a state of mind is maybe not normal, or expected. And so the context will probably imply what the normal state of mind would be and then the use of this term would imply that it wasn't the case. "Empty-headed" to me implies someone who is maybe dumb or not very 'intellectual', and I don't think that's necessarily how we use "nollställd". Certainly if someone said that about themselves it seems a bit unnatural to think it means something akin to dumb.

    If you check "synonymer.se" you'll find a few examples I think are pretty good.

    Please provide the rest of the context - what comes before and after..


    Senior Member
    Icelandic & Swedish
    I agree with Mattias: some context is needed. When used of a person, vara nollställd does not have a fixed meaning. A few examples (from a Google search):
    • Jag är helt nollställd på hur jag ska börja. “I have no idea how to begin with this.”
    • Jag är helt nollställd när det gäller bilar. “I'm completely clueless when it comes to cars.“
    • Jag är helt nollställd i frågan. “I don't have an opinion one way or the other.“
    There are several other possibilities. The meaning “I'm completely lost/confused” is one of them, but I don't think it's the most common one. Some dictionaries give the meaning “stupid“, which I suspect is somewhat dated.

    I also agree with Mattias that “empty-headed” doesn't work as a translation of nollställd. Whoever came up with that may have been thinking of the phrase nollställd i huvudet which, again, does not have a fixed meaning but can, for example, mean “lost for ideas”.


    Senior Member
    English - British
    The Urban Dictionary suggests that the English "zeroed" comes from computing, which means memory locations have been set to zero. I only mention it because it seems to give a clue as to how it arose in Swedish, and its meanings.