an American fish in & out of Estonian waters

Key Estonian Words: Amps


Google Translate doesn’t always work – especially for certain special words – even when those words are used almost every day. No, amps is not short for “ampere” – that measurement of electrical current. If anything, it is an Estonian culinary measurement. Pronounced with a short Estonian “a” rather than a long American “aa,” the word is something of an onomatopoeia – a sound that you might make while eating – as in “chomp.”

The closest English translation for amps would probably be a “bite” – although it is becoming somewhat more super-sized to also mean a “snack.” At first, kids would ask their moms for just one more amps of something sweet while moms would try to get their kids to take just one more amps of something that was good for them. And just about anyone launching a new food product will still set up a temporary stall at Tallinn’s main market – or any supermarket – and then try to get you to try an amps of whatever it is that they might have made. But these days, every wannabe eatery from your local gas station to your corner kiosk seems to have gone into the amps business – offering you hot dogs, wraps, and various other portable snacks to help you make it to your next meal. There is even a small Tallinn chain of a half-dozen or so bistro-cafés called Amps which specialize in these quick snacks or not quite meals.

Come to think of it, maybe there is a relationship between an electrical amp and an Estonian amps. After all, you might describe the modern amps as that extra charge – or food boost – designed to get you to your next full meal where you can top off your batteries.

In honor of my Estonian Word of the Week, I’ve updated flatfish’s five favorite bites: Where to Eat in Kalamaja. Check it out – and please share it with a hungry Estonian friend. And if I’m missing anything essential on my check list, please do let me know. Thanks – and head isu!*


*Funny, when you ask Google to translate “head isu” into English, all you get is the French expression “Bon Appetit!” Guess there are some things that you just can’t translate ….

Image: A wooden hand holding a two-legged wooden spoon made by an unknown Estonian wood carver.

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