Untranslatable words from all over the world

Maria Hafez
Staff Writer

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.

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