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Leil is a sacred word in Estonian.

 

That's what we call the steam generated by pouring water onto hot rocks in a sauna. There's no sauna without leil - despite the impression you might get from gym saunas and celebrity infrared saunas around the world!

The word leil is derived from the word for 'breath' or 'spirit' in proto-Uralic, the ancestor to Finnic languages like Estonian and Finnish. It symbolises the very essense of life because the sauna is our traditional place of birth and the sauna experience has long been associated with the concept of rebirth. A well designed sauna, used the right way, and with good leil will enable you to emerge refreshed and rejuvenated.

Similar words once existed in the languages of other peoples too, including English, but were lost to time as their own communal steam bathing traditions were forgotten. The world is now rediscovering what it means to sauna ...but, for too many people, it has become a dry, solitary, and painful experience to be endured, devoid of traditions and without steam and sometimes without even stones.

So we think it's time to teach the world the meaning of leil to help more people celebrate the sauna tradition with us - and enjoy it properly. We want to make leil the first Estonian word to enter English and global common usage.

This is a mission that Anni and Adam have been on for the past few years by introducing the word leil to new communities of saunas enthusiasts around world (including by giving this TEDx Talk about it).

 

And we need your help to spread the message further.

That's why we’ve printed a dictionary definition of leil so you can share the meaning of leil wherever you go. Feel free to email us any feedback (or pictures of you sharing the meaning of leil!) at tere@estoniansaunas.com.