Adding Words to Your Anki

May 11, 2024
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There are about 6,000 words you’ll need to know to speak Icelandic in your day-to-day life. That’s a lot, so it pays to be efficient.

Anki is undoubtedly the most efficient answer to how you should learn vocabulary. If you’ve already set up your Anki properly, you’re well on your way to learning vocabulary as fast as possible.

Here we’ll learn to navigate Anki’s potato-interface to add words to learn, and the format that we want them to be in.

Don’t Download Words

Don’t download a deck from the Internet; add your own words.

Words in downloaded decks often aren’t relevant to you. Why should “ég er með hnetuofnæmi” (“I have a peanut allergy”) be one of the very first things you learn if you don’t have any allergies?

When you choose the words to add yourself, every word is relevant to you.

Also, downloaded decks don’t give you any context; you only know those words as entries on a list you’re memorising. You have no memory to tie them to, no event where you first heard the word, no emotion that the word connects to.

This lack of context makes memorisation much less efficient.

Where to Find Words

It’s best to find words to learn by reading and listening to a lot of Icelandic, and learning (some of) the words you don’t know. Just don’t stop to look up every single new word you come across.

Dictionary Form

Dictionary form is the base form of a word that you find in a dictionary. You should learn the dictionary form of all your words, because it’s the base that all other grammatical forms are derived from.

Grammatical forms are systematic. If you know the base form and the system, you can usually deduce every other form from that. That means that memorising forms other than the dictionary form is usually a waste of time.

Advanced learners will need to memorise some principal parts, but that would be wasted effort for beginners and most intermediate learners.

Where to Find the Dictionary Form

You find the dictionary form in, drumroll please, a dictionary.

I generally recommend Digicoll.

Adding a Word (Desktop)

Let’s start adding words into your Anki. To add a card, click the add button at the top.

The first time you add a card, you’ll have to make a deck by clicking on the deck option. Name it “íslenska”, because it’s classy to use the language you’re learning.

Then change the type to “Basic (type in the answer)”. You only have to do that once, then it’ll apply automatically to every card you add. Now you can add your word.

Front and Back

  • Front is for your native language (or whatever language you like, really)
  • Back is for Icelandic

This way you have to type your answer in Icelandic, which we want because:

  1. It forces you to notice spelling
  2. It’s harder to lie to yourself about your answer when it’s spelled out in front of you
  3. It trains you to use the Icelandic keyboard

Adding a Word (Mobile App)

Let’s start adding words into your Anki. To add a card, tap the blue plus again, then tap add note.

Then change the type to Basic (type in the answer). You only have to do that once, then it’ll apply automatically to every card you add. Now you can add your word.

This way you have to type your answer, which is what we want when reviewing on desktop. We’re on our phone, not a desktop, but we still want the cards to have this setting so they’ll still have it when we sync our phone to our desktop.

When reviewing on the phone, we probably don’t want to type the answer; just saying it out loud is enough. Typing is slow on the phone, so it can be frustrating - plus, auto-fill and auto-correct negate most of the point of typing, anyway.

Front and Back

  • Front is for your native language (or whatever language you like, really)
  • Back is for Icelandic

Grammatical Information

There’s a tiny bit of grammatical information I would recommend including in your Anki, depending on the part of speech and your level.


With verbs, always include the infinitive marker . Að tala (to speak) rather than just tala (speak), for instance. This helps separate them from nouns.

If you have the word tala on its own, you can’t tell if it’s to speak or a button, for instance. Að tala is clearly to speak.


For beginners, I don’t recommend including any grammatical information on verbs. Your cards should look like this:

  • Front: to speak
  • Back: að tala

Intermediate / Advanced

Intermediate and advanced learners may want to include the verb category.

  • Front: to speak
  • Back: að tala (-a verb)

  • Front: to do
  • Back: að gera (-i verb)

  • Front: to go
  • Back: að fara (strong verb)

Very advanced learners may want to include principal parts for strong verbs, as well.

  • Front: to go
  • Back: að fara (fór, fórum, farið)


Icelandic nouns are masculine, feminine, or neuter. You can’t always predict the gender from the way the noun looks.

  • Sími = a phone (masculine)
  • Helgi = a weekend (feminine)
  • Teppi = a carpet, a blanket (neuter)

To know the gender of a noun, check the dictionary. Here’s planta (plant) as it appears in Digicoll, for example.

The f stands for feminine. An m would stand for masculine, and n for neuter. The rest of the information isn’t important right now.

Though Digicoll marks the gender with m, f, and n, I recommend using the Icelandic pronouns hann (he), hún (she), and það (it) to mark a noun’s gender in your Anki. It’s more immersive and naturalistic for your brain than terminology like masculine, feminine and neuter.

  • Front: a phone
  • Back: sími - hann

  • Front: a weekend
  • Back: helgi - hún

  • Front: a blanket
  • Back: teppi - það

If you prefer, though, you can mark it any way you want – m, f, n; karlkyn, kvenkyn, hvorugkyn; he, she, it; ♂, ♀, ⚥ - whatever floats your boat.


The gender of words isn’t overly important for beginners, but it will become important quite soon. I’d say that including the gender in your Anki is optional for beginners.


Intermediate and advanced learners should definitely include the gender of nouns when you learn vocabulary.


Very advanced learners may want to include even more information, such as the genitive singular and nominative plural forms for some nouns.

  • Front: a boy
  • Back: strákur (-s, -ar)

  • Front: a guest
  • Back: gestur (-s, -ir)

  • Front: a forest
  • Back: skógur (-ar, -ar)

Other Word Categories

You don’t need to do anything special with most adjectives, adverbs, and prepositions. How they appear in the dictionary is just fine, no need to add anything.


How strict you should be with learning the grammatical information is always a judgement call. It depends on your level, goals, and personality.

A beginner might want to consider their answers correct if they know a noun’s meaning, but forgot the gender. A more advanced student who is focusing on gender might want to consider it incorrect. It’s up to you.

Next Steps

Now that we’ve learned to add words into our Anki, let’s do some reviewing!