Lost in Translation? “Löyly”
If you are bilingual, you have likely struggled to find a word translation that just doesn’t exist. With cultural, historical, and geographical differences, some languages develop words that are translated only in phrases or unsatisfying equivalents in another language.
Sauna has one of these terms– Löyly, (or German equivalent Aufguss). We know what it means, but we struggle to translate it into English exactly. The word defies an exact, simple translation into English. But we love this word enough to seek its essence for our customers who share our love of Finnish sauna.
If you were to Google for a straight definition of Löyly in English, you’d find something like this:
You would likely read this and think, “Well, that’s pretty uninspiring.”
But you would have missed the heart of the term. Finns have a deep and abiding love relationship with sauna that permeates both the culture and family units. Löyly for them is far more than just commenting on the fact that there is steam in their sauna. An old Finnish proverb says that “If a sick person is not cured by tar, spirits, or sauna, then they will die.” Sauna is life–is health–is community to the Finns.
Löyly is one of the most precious moments of the sauna experience–the moment water hits the rocks and transforms into a burst of steam. It’s more than just the steam itself, but the essence, the strengthening, the relaxing release of the steam. Löyly is an experience–the releasing of one’s cares, of retreat and contemplation, of healing, society and family, warmth, and love.
“Leave your worries with your shoes,” as one proverb says.
In fact, we recently ran across an online conversation of people attempting to translate Löyly into English. It was a meandering but heartfelt conversation of people trying to define Löyly for those of us who speak neither Finnish nor German.
Some unsatisfying attempts at translation included the following:
- To sprinkle water on the stone
- The process of pouring water over heated rocks
- Sauna or sauna bath
To the somewhat more satisfying translations of
- Aromatic steam treatment
- Onpouring (by the saunameister)
Or even the obsolete definition of “spirit,” which gives a glimpse into the word’s deeper essence.
So whatever your translation or understanding of Löyly, enjoy and contemplate in your sauna as you bask in the gentle steam and embrace of the sauna experience.
Here at Almost Heaven Saunas, we embrace Finnish traditions of sauna. We emulate the historic Finnish tradition of taking sauna while providing our customers with quality, accessories, and ease of construction. Read our brief history of Finnish sauna here and view our products and accessories here.