Languages use different words and vocabularies to define the same thing. However, most languages have unique words that define a specific feeling or situation: untranslatable words, which don’t have an exact equivalent in English.
Here is a short list of untranslatable words in languages from all over the world:
- Forelsket (Norwegian): The incredible euphoria experienced as you begin to fall in love.
- Trepverter (Yiddish): A witty comeback you think of only when it’s too late to use.
- Hiraeth (Welsh): A particular type of longing for the homeland or the romanticized past.
- Verschlimmbessern (German): To make something worse when trying to improve it.
- Pochemuhka (Russian): A person who asks too many questions.
- Utepils (Norwegian): To sit outside on a sunny day and enjoy a beer.
- Age-otori (Japanese): To look worse after a haircut.
- Cafuné (Brazilian Portuguese): The act of tenderly running one’s fingers through someone’s hair.
- Abbiocco (Italian): Drowsiness from eating a big meal.
- Schapsidee (German): An ingenious plan one hatches when drunk.
- Boketto (Japanese): The act of gazing vacantly into the distance without thinking.
- Tretår (Swedish): A second refill or “threefill” of coffee.
- Mokita (Kivila): The truth everyone knows but agree not to talk about.
- Dapjeongneo (Korean): When somebody has already decided the answer they want to hear after asking a question, and are waiting for you to say that exact answer.
- Jayus (Indonesian): An unfunny joke told so poorly that one cannot help but laugh.
- Mamihlapinatapai (Yagan): The meaningful look shared by two wordless people who both desire to initiate something, but both are reluctant to do so.
- Gökotta (Swedish): To wake up early in the morning with the purpose of going outside to hear the first birds sing.
- Tartle (Scottish): The act of hesitating while introducing someone because you’ve forgotten their name.
- Hygge (Danish): Creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people.
- Sobremesa (Spanish): After-lunch conversation around the table.
- Litost (Czech): The humiliating despair we feel when someone accidentally reminds us, through their accomplishment, of everything that has gone wrong in our lives.
- Hüzün (Turkish): The gloomy feeling that things are in decline and that the situation will probably get gradually worse.
- Mono no aware (Japanese): An acute sensitivity to the transience of lovely things; a melancholic awareness that everything nice will fade combined with a rich enjoyment of this short-lived beauty.
- Wabi-sabi (Japanese): The quality of being attract because of being imperfect in some way.