Lost In Translation: 30 Words With No English Equivalent
As extensive as the English language might be, other languages continue to have many words that are completely absent! This list has 30 words from all around the world with no exact english equivalents and maybe you’ll find some of these interesting or perhaps even be motivated to pick up a new language, because why not?
(German) A feeling of enjoyment that comes from seeing or hearing about the troubles of other people. Notice the “Freud” in there, perhaps Sigmund Freud loved hearing about people’s troubles and built up his psychodynamic field on that!
(German) That feeling you get of homesickness for a place you’ve never ever been to! This is quite similar to wanderlust except that wanderlust is a yearning to visit all those places rather than that distinct feeling of homesickness for them.
(Spanish) The moment after eating a meal when the food is gone but the conversation is still flowing at the table. Usually after the main meal of the day where the Spanish often linger on at the table drinking coffee, chatting, playing cards or watching TV before returning to work later in the afternoon.
(German) That moment when we think of the perfect comeback long after the chance to actually use the comeback! It essentially means “a clever remark that comes to mind when it’s too late to say it”.
(German) Do you ever just look at somebody and get so annoyed that you just want to hit them in the face? Well this is the word for you because “Backpfeifengesicht” is a face badly in need of a fist!
(Swedish) Lagom is all about moderation. It means not too much and not too little, but just the right amount. Typically referring to the etiquette of taking your share. Lagom is just the perfect spot on the scale!
(Spanish) The definition is to wear or use something for the first time but it could be applied for meals, clothes, houses, cars, everything!
(Russian) Describes the feeling a person has for someone he or she once loved. Quite a sad word but here it is for when you really want to convey that.
(Japanese) A beautiful girl as long as she’s being viewed from behind. Ouch.
(Indonesian) Stealing things of little to no value, not because you need them but for the fun of it! This has also become a condition called Kleptomania that refers to the inability to stop the urge to steal items for reasons other than personal use or financial gain.
(Spanish) A one-word way of saying the day before yesterday or a shorter version of “antes de ayer”. Can we have a word for the the day before before yesterday?
(Japanese) Means “a profound, mysterious sense of the beauty of the universe … and the sad beauty of human suffering”. This concept is very important in Japanese culture and the exact translation often depends on the context. In Chinese philosophy the term was taken from “yūgen” meaning “dim”, “deep” or “mysterious”.
(Yiddish) An “inept, bungling person” who is chronically unlucky! (Also Schlimazel or Shlimazl)
(Danish) Relaxing with a few friends and loved ones while having a meal or some drinks. The word is all about coziness. This is also similar to just “chilling” with a bunch of good friends but Hygge is far more precise.
(Spanish) Being unable to sleep or to be sleep deprived. Not very pleasant.
(German) Being flustered to the point of incompetence. Some say this would be the same as “jittery” but it’s different because it conveys this temporary state of inexactitude and sloppiness that is caused by another person’s nagging!
(Japanese) Leaving a new book unread after buying it and just letting it pile up with the other unread lonely books in your house, possibly the meanest thing you could do to something as valuable as a book! Don’t tsundoku!
(Japanese) Connected to the idea of fate, this word means that something can’t be helped, so why worry about it? Worrying won’t stop the bad things from happening, it will only stop you from enjoying the good ones.
(Spanish) A man with only one eye. Loosely translates to “The One-Eyed”.
(Swedish) This Swedish exclamation is a sympathetic word to use when someone else is in pain. Pronounced “OOF-dah”, it’s like a mix between “Ouch for you” and “I’m sorry you hurt yourself!”
(German) The feeling of being alone in the woods. Some Hansel and Gretel or Red Riding Hood reference, I bet!
(Yiddish) To wholeheartedly appreciate the success of others.
(German) A romanticised and weary sadness that is experienced by the most privileged of the youth! Translates literally to “world-grief”. Doesn’t that sound a little like our first world problems?
(Russian) A person who asks too many questions. Yes, I’m looking at you girl in my class who never puts her hand down.
(Portuguese) Melancholic longing or nostalgia for a person, place or thing that is far away from you.
(Scottish) If you’ve ever been talking to someone you’ve been introduced to before but their name has completely disappeared from your brain then you’ve tartled. Essentially means a hesitation in recognising a person or thing.
(Japanese) The bittersweetness of a brief and grading moment of transcendent beauty.
(Pascuense) Slowly and gradually stealing your neighbour’s things by borrowing them and not returning them till you’ve built up a collection of all the things Not Yours!
(Inuit) The frustration and annoyance that comes with waiting for someone to show up. To all you people who wait for your date at the restaurant for hours while the waiters glance pity looks at you every once in a while. Yes. You know what I mean.
(Yagan) An unspoken yet really profound look shared by two people who both desire to initiate something but are both reluctant to start.
Do you know any other words that we don’t have in the English language?
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