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Danish straits

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Danish straits

"Belts" and "Sounds" in Denmark and southwestern Baltic Sea

The Danish straits are the three channels connecting the Baltic Sea to the North Sea through the Kattegat and Skagerrak. They transect Denmark, and are not to be confused with the Denmark Strait between Greenland and Iceland. The three main passages are:


The Copenhagen Convention of 1857 made the Danish straits an international waterway.

Naming and geography

Specficially, there are five straits named 'belt' (Danish: bælt), the only ones in the world. Several straits are named 'sound' (Danish, Swedish and German: sund). Where an island is situated between a belt and a sound, typically the broader strait is called belt and the more narrow one is the sound:

  • Als:
    • separated from the continent by Alssund
    • separated from Fyn by the southern part of the Little Belt, an area referred to in German (but not Danish) as Alsenbelt
  • Fehmarn
    • separated from the continent by Fehmarnsund, also Femersund
    • separated from Lolland by Fehmarnbelt (German) / Femerbelt (Platt) / Femernbælt (former spelling: Femer Bælt)
The Øresund,
seen from Helsingborg
  • Langeland:
    • separated from Tåsinge Island by Siø Sund (Tåsinge itself is separated from Fyn by Svendborg Sund)
    • separated from Lolland by Langelandsbælt, the southern part of Great Belt
  • Lolland:
    • separated from Storstrømmen Strait)
    • separated from Langeland by Langelandsbælt
    • separated from Fehmarn by Femernbælt, which is the common continuation of Great Belt–Langelandsbælt and Little Belt

Etymology of Sound / Sund

Sound/Sund: Aldersund separating Aldra island (left) from mainland Norway.

The Germanic word "sound" has the same root as the verb to sunder in the meaning of "to separate'". The Old Norse form of that verb is sundr. In Norway hundreds of narrow straits separating islands and combining Fjords or outer parts of Fjords are named "Sund".

Another explanation derives Sound from an ancient verb "sund" in the meaning of to swim. That way a sound is a swimmable strait. In Swedish language any strait is called "sund".

The Germanic word "sound" is not related to the Romance languages originated word "sound", which has developed from the Latin sonus.

See also


  • Denmark 1:500,000 – official map for download
  • sundNorwegian dictionary:
  • sundreNorwegian dictionary:

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