Smorgasbord, a loanword from Swedish (originating in Old Norse), means (1) a meal featuring a variety of dishes, or (2) a varied collection. In both the word’s accepted senses, variety is key. For example, these writers use smorgasbord in its traditional sense because it refers to a variety: 

It’s a smorgasbord of gripes ranging from income inequality to poor housing to executive pay. [Wall Street Journal]

As usual, Harvey pulls in a smorgasbord of musical genres, including dark-wave, dirty rock and English pastoral. [Guardian]

Glogg, traditionally based in warmed red wine, port, brandy or aquavit, comprises a smorgasbord of seasonal fruits and spices—orange and/or orange peel, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom. [Chicago Tribune]

Meanwhile, some writers in English have stretched the word beyond its original sense, now using it in reference to an abundance but not necessarily a variety—for example:


Here is your open thread to comment on the smorgasbord of early NFL games today. [Bolts from the Blue]

Offering a smorgasbord of violence with liberal sprinklings of sex, Russian import “Alien Girl” delivers wearisome brutality but little finesse. [Variety]

Smorgasbord in these cases might give way to synonyms of abundance that don’t connote variety—for example, plethora, plenitude, cornucopia, wealth, bounty, and profusion.


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