Home Language ResourcesInspiration & Motivation 203 Most Beautiful Untranslatable Words [The Ultimate List: A-Z]

203 Most Beautiful Untranslatable Words [The Ultimate List: A-Z]

by Michele
Most Beautiful Untranslatable Words from Around the World - The Ultimate List A-Z
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From Afrikaans to Zulu, here are 203 most beautiful untranslatable words in other languages from around the world that should exist in English.

If you’ve ever tried to learn a language, then you’ll know that translating is not always an easy task. There are over 7,000 languages in the world and just as many words and ideas that get ‘lost in translation’ due to differences in grammar and semantics, or even linguistic complications. When a language fails to convey the essence of a word during translation, the word is considered to be ‘untranslatable.’

There are many terms that drip with feeling and emotion that are simply untranslatable into English. By taking a closer look at some of the most beautiful untranslatable words from around the world, they can give us a glimpse into different cultures and belief systems that help us to understand the people who speak these marvellous languages. 

English is no stranger to borrowing words from other languages and even inventing new ones like ‘hangry‘, a combination of anger and hunger because you need something to eat asap. Then there is ‘nomophobia‘, an irrational fear or sense of panic felt when you’ve lost your phone or are unable to use it. Even English playwright William Shakespeare invented plenty of words too such as ‘faint-hearted‘ and ‘tongue-tied‘. These new words have entered English dictionaries at a fast pace, keeping up with the diversity of the English-speaking world. 

In spite of this, the English language can’t explain everything so succinctly, and yet there are many other languages that have, in just one word. This comprehensive list looks at some of the most beautiful words in different languages that are simply untranslatable into English. Many of which we should definitely borrow.

From Afrikaans to Zulu, here are 203 of the most beautiful untranslatable words from other languages.


Most Beautiful Untranslatable Words - Afrikaans - LoskopLoskop – Used to describe someone who is forgetful, absent-minded and a bit air-headed. It’s literally means, ‘loose (los) head (kop)’.

Learn Afrikaans for travel! Get my free Afrikaans travel phrase guide here.


Most Beautiful Untranslatable Words - Albanian - BesaBesa –  An Albanian verb and pledge of honour that means to keep a promise by honouring your word. It’s usually translated as “faith” or “oath”.


Most Beautiful Untranslatable Words - Arabic - SamarSamar (سمر) – Staying up late after the sun has gone down and having an enjoyable time with friends. Samar is also an Arabic name meaning ‘evening conversations including Arabic music and poetry’. Samar in Arabic is a cognate of the Hebrew name Shamar which means ‘to preserve’.

Taarradhin  (تراض)Taarradhin is the act of coming to a happy compromise where everyone wins. It’s a way of reconciling without anyone losing face.

Most Beautiful Untranslatable Words - Arabic - Ya’aburneeYa’aburnee (يقبرني) –  This word is an emotional declaration of one’s hope that they’ll die before another person to express how impossible it would be to live without them. The literal meaning of the Arabic word ya’aburnee is ‘you bury me’. The underlying idea goes deeper than that (no pun intended). Ya’aburnee is said in the hope that a loved one will outlive you. It is a painful yet beautiful expression of a desire to save yourself the pain of a life without a person you love.

Learn Arabic for travel! Get my free Arabic travel phrase guide here.


Beautiful Untranslatable Words - Basque - AspaldikoAspaldiko – This untranslatable Basque word describes the euphoria and happiness felt when catching up with someone you haven’t seen in a long time.

Learn Basque for travel! Get my free Basque travel phrase guide here.


Beautiful Untranslatable Words - Bengali - Ghodar-dimGhodar-dim (ঘোড়ার ডিম) – Pronounced [gho-rar-deem], this Bengali word is a sarcastic term for ‘nothing’ or false hope. It literally means ‘horse’s egg’, therefore representing something that doesn’t exist.


Beautiful Untranslatable Words - Bulgarian - AilyakAilyakAilyak is a beautiful Bulgarian term for the subtle art of doing everything calmly and without rushing, whilst enjoying the experience and life in general.

Learn Bulgarian for travel! Get my free Bulgarian travel phrase guide here.

Chinese (Mandarin)

Guanxi (关系) – Pronounced [gwan-shee], guanxi is often translated as ‘connections’, ‘relationships’ or ‘networks’ and refers to having a strong personal relationship with someone which involves moral obligations and exchanging favours. This is one of the essential ways of getting things done in traditional Chinese society. To build up good guanxi, you do things for people such as give them gifts, take them to dinner, or other favours. If you need to call in a favour then you ‘use up’ your guanxi.

Once a favour is made, an unspoken obligation exists. Because of this, people often try to refuse gifts, because, sooner or later, they may have to repay the debt. However, the bond of guanxi rarely ends, because once the relationship exists, it sets up an endless loop that can last a lifetime.

Beautiful Untranslatable Words - Chinese Mandarin - Re-naoRé nao (热闹) – The Chinese word ré nao is usually translated as ‘lively’ or ‘bustling,’ but its true meaning goes beyond these adjectives. It refers to a fun, lively place with an inviting vibe that makes you want to be there.


Beautiful Untranslatable Words - Czech - LitostLitostLitost is nearly untranslatable, but Czech writer Milan Kundera describes it as ‘a state of torment created by the sudden sight of one’s own misery’. 

Mít kliku – This Czech verb means to have luck on your side or be lucky enough to achieve something. It literally means, ‘to have a door handle’.

ProzvonitProzvonitis when you call but only let it ring once so that the other person calls back without so you save money or minutes. 

Learn Czech for travel! Get my free Czech travel phrase guide here.


Beautiful Untranslatable Words - Danish - ArbejdsgaedeArbejdsglæde – Pronounced [ah-bites-gleh-the], this compound word is make up of arbejde meaning ‘work’ and glæde meaning ‘happiness’ so arbejdsglæde literally means ‘job joy’, ‘job satisfaction’ or ‘happiness at work.’ It’s the heightened sense of happiness, fulfilment, and satisfaction you get from having a great job.  This untranslatable word also exists in the other Nordic languages, including Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish and Icelandic.

Beautiful Untranslatable Words - Danish - HyggeHygge – Pronounced [HEU-guh], Hygge is a well-known Danish term that describes the emotional warmth created by relaxing in the company of loved ones such as good friends and family. Hygge usually involves spending the evening at home, and getting cozy by candlelit with warm blankets, and maybe some alcohol. Watching the glow of a roaring log burner is hygge and so too is building a snowman with your children – however old they are. Similar words are also found in German (gemütlichkeit), Swedish (gemytlig) and Norwegian (hyggelig). 

Learn Danish for travel! Get my free Danish travel phrase guide here.


Beautiful Untranslatable Words - Dutch - UitwaaienUitwaaienUitwaaien is an idiomatic Dutch expression which means to go out in windy weather, particularly into nature or a park, in order to refresh and clear one’s mind. Uitwaaien comes from the Dutch uit– ‘out-‘ and‎ waaien, ‘to blow’, of wind.

VoorpretVoorpret is the build up of anticipation, joy or pleasure you feel ahead of the actual event such as setting up for a party and can’t help but dance as you do it. Voorpret literally means, ‘pre-fun’ but means more than just the anticipation of something fun, it’s enjoying the anticipation. It’s voorpret!

Gezelligheid – This Dutch word combines the Danish concept of hygge and the German gemütlichkeit. Gezelligheid is the idea of being in a comfortable, cozy atmosphere with loved ones, catching up with an old friend, or just the general togetherness that gives people a warm feeling. It suggests a sense of closeness that many consider encompasses the heart of Dutch culture.

Beautiful Untranslatable Words - Dutch - EpibrerenEpibreren –  Pronounced [ep-i-BREER-un], epibreren describes giving the appearance of being busy and important in the workplace when in reality you’re being super lazy. This term comes with an interesting origin story too. It was originally coined by Simon Carmiggelt, a Dutch newspaper columnist who explained in one of his columns that this previously unknown term had been revealed to him in 1953 by a civil servant from whom he had requested some papers. The civil servant said that the papers still needed epibreren. Not knowing what he meant, Carmiggelt asked, and the civil servant eventually confessed that he had made it up to fend off enquiries.

Learn Dutch for travel! Get my free Dutch travel phrase guide here.


Beautiful Untranslatable-Words - Estonian - LeiliviskajaLeiliviskaja – A person who throws water on hot rocks to make steam in a sauna.


Beautiful Untranslatable Words - Finnish - HyppytyynytyydytysHyppytyynytyydytys – This may look like I fell asleep on my keyboard, but this Finnish word literally means, ‘bouncy cushion satisfaction’. It describes the pleasure and satisfaction derived from sitting or bouncing on a bouncy cushion. I want to learn Finnish just so I can use this word!

Jaksaa – A severe absence of enthusiasm to do something. When you just don’t have enough strength, will power to do something or can’t be bothered.

KaamosKaamos is more than just Polar Night when there are 24 consecutive hours of darkness,  kaamos describes the longing for sunshine, and a feeling of depression and lack of motivation and enthusiasm. It signifies long dark days and bad weather, no social life, and a lack of inspiration.

Lieko – A trunk of a tree that has submerged to the bottom of a lake.

Myötähäpeä – Experiencing a shared embarrassment or shame when seeing someone else do something embarrassing. Myö means ‘we,’ myötä means ‘with’ and häpeä is ‘shame’, so it can be roughly translated to something like ‘co-embarrassment’ or ‘secondhand embarrassment’.

Beautiful Untranslatable Words - Finnish - PoronkusemaPoronkusema – Talk about very Finnish problems, poronkusema describes the distance a reindeer can comfortably travel before taking a break to urinate. In case you were wondering, it’s around, 4.7miles / 7.5km. Poronkusema was once an official unit of measurement until the metric system was introduced in the late nineteenth century.

Sauna – A sauna is a small room used as a hot-air or steam bath for cleaning and refreshing the body. Saunas were invented in Finland several millennia ago and are still a cornerstone of Finnish culture, as well as of every Finnish home. So much so that, traditionally, when people moved they used to build the sauna first, and only then the house. 

SisuSisu is a Finnish concept that describes a stoic resilience, determination and hardiness considered to be necessary to face the difficulties of life in general and of life in harsh conditions in particular. This Finnish term that can be roughly translated as strength of will, determination, perseverance, and acting rationally in the face of adversity. Sisu isn’t momentary courage, but the power to sustain that courage to see something through.

Tokka – Pronounced [talk-uh] is a Finnish collective noun for a large herd of reindeer. It is said that there are as many reindeer as there are people in Finland.

Learn Finnish for travel! Get my free Finnish travel phrase guide here.


Bérézina – A sense of panic associated with a huge defeat. The word Bérézina is used in the French idomC’est la Bérézina’ meaning a complete defeat, loss. The origin of this expression dates back over 200 years to the banks of the river Berezina in Belarus. It was here that a fierce battle took place between Napoleon’s retreating army and the Imperial Russian army. The battle ended in a victory for the Russian Empire and heavy losses for the French.

Beautiful Untranslatable - Words - French - DépaysementDépaysementDépaysement is a feeling of restlessness that comes with being away from your country of origin and feeling like a foreigner. It’s a mix of disorientation to culture shock. Dépaysement can also be used when you’re a bit fed up with your environment and need a change of scenery. Literally, dépaysement means something like ‘to be uncountried’.

Bricoleur — A bricoleur is a handyman who uses whatever materials he can get his hands on to create a construction (or bricolage). Think of the well-known term Bric-à-brac –  miscellaneous objects and ornaments of little value. The closest equivalent in English would be something like a DIY-er. 

Beautiful Untranslatable Words - French - FlâneurFlâneur –  Flâner is a verb meaning ‘to stroll’ but a flâneur is a person of leisure who enjoys wandering the streets and soaking in the city and surroundings and appreciating its beauty. The term flâneur was first coined in the 19th century to describe a literary man of a certain social class, who would spend his time exploring the streets of Paris.

La douleur exquise – If French is the language of love, then it seems only fitting that it has a term to describe all the feelings associated with unrequited love. La douleur exquise literally means ‘the exquisite pain’,  the pain of wanting something you can’t have, such as someone who will never return your feelings.

L’appel du videL’appel du vide is that little voice in your head telling you to do something stupid like jerking the steering wheel to the right and take a flying leap off the edge or staring out at the view from a balcony and have a sudden urge to jump over the ledge. In English, you might refer to it as the call of the Siren song.

L’esprit de l’escalier – Literally ‘stairwell wit’, l’esprit de l’escalier is the feeling that you’ve got the perfect comeback, but you think of it too late. Similar to the German, treppenwitz, mentioned earlier.

Retrouvailles – This beautiful French word means ‘refindings’, referring to the reunion you would have with someone you care deeply for but haven’t seen in a long time. The English word ‘reunion’ doesn’t quite capture this intense feeling.

Beautiful Untranslatable Words- French - YaourtYaourt – The need to sing along to a song even though you don’t know the lyrics. Instead, you use nonsensical noises that vaguely resemble the lyrics of a song.

Learn French for travel! Get my free French travel phrase guide here.


Beautiful Untranslatable Words - Georgian - ShemomedjamShemomedjam – When you eat something because it’s so yummy and delicious, even though you’re not hungry.


Beautiful Untranslatable Words - German - BackpfeifengesichtBackpfeifengesichtGerman is full of hilarious phrases and backpfeifengesicht is one of the most inventive. This German compound word literally means a ‘face that should be slapped’ or ‘a face in need of a slap!’ Backpfeifengesicht is made up of 3 separate words: back – from die Backe, meaning cheek; pfeifen – German verb meaning to whistle; das Gesicht – The German word for face. You might be thinking, but, Michele, that means ‘cheek whistle face’. True! But when you combine the words back and pfeife you get die Backpfeife, which means slap in German. 

Drachenfutter – Literally, ‘dragon fodder’, this is a gift someone gives to placate and apologise to someone, especially a spouse, after they’ve done something wrong or stupid.

Erklärungsnot – The urgent need to explain something, either yourself or the situation. It can also mean to struggle explaining something. Erklärungsnot is made up of the German words Erklärung (‘explanation’) and not (in this case, can be translated as ‘need.’)

Extrawunsch – A term used to call someone who complicates things by being fussy or picky, and thus slows things down.

FachidiotFachidiot, literally it means ‘subject-idiot’. A fachidiot is a person with expert knowledge in their own field and are well-accomplished but are clueless when it comes to anything outside that area. 

Beautiful Untranslatable Words - German - FahrvergnugenFahrvergnügen – The love and pleasure one feels from simply driving around. The German compound word fahrvergnügen comes from fahren (‘to drive’) and‎ vergnügen (‘pleasure’). This term was popularised in the USA by Volkswagen advertisements in the 1990s.

Beautiful Untranslatable Words - German - FernwehFernwehFernweh is one of my favourite travel words that describe wanderlust perfectly. Fernweh is a feeling of homesickness for a place, even though you’ve never been there. The word fernweh is made up of fern (‘far’) and‎ weh (‘pain’) and can be literally translated as ‘farsickness’ or longing for far-off places. This is the opposite of heimweh, which means homesickness.

Fisselig – This represents a temporary state of sloppiness, usually elicited by a person’s nagging. This often means that a person is flustered to the point of incompetence.

KabelsalatKabelsalat literally means, ‘a cable salad’, a beautiful word to describe the mess of tangled cables.

HandschuhschneeballwerferHandschuhschneeballwerfer is German slang for ‘coward’. It literally means, ‘someone who wears gloves to throw snowballs’. In other words, a cowardly person who criticises and abuses something from a safe distance.

Beautiful Untranslatable Words - German - KummerspeckKummerspeck – Guilty of eating your feelings? That’s called ‘grief bacon’ or kummerspeck. This term refers binge eating as a result of an emotional blow and the excess weight you can gain from emotional overeating. 

LebensmüdeLebensmüde is a German compound noun made up of the words leben (life) and müde (tired), and literally means ‘life tired’. It describes the feeling of being tired or weary of life. Its closest English equivalents are probably world-weary, depressed, fed up, restless and dissatisfied.

Schadenfreude – A feeling of joy and pleasure that comes with seeing another’s misfortune. Usually. someone you really dislike.

Schilderwald – A street that is so overcrowded and rammed with street signs, that you’re more prone to getting lost rather than finding your way.

Schlimmbesserung – Something that was meant to be an improvement, but actually makes things worse.

Schnapsidee – Literally, ‘schnapps idea’, is a plan so ridiculous you must have been drunk when you thought it up.

Beautiful Untranslatable Words - German - SitzfleischSitzfleisch – Literally translated, sitzfleisch means ‘sitting meat’ or ‘sitting flesh’ – in other words, your bottom. This German refers to a person with the ability to sit through something very boring. But not only. It’s also used to refer to someone who is hardworking and has the physical discipline to sit down and get on with the job. If you have, sitzfleisch, you possess the ability and the stamina to stay seated for extended periods of time in order to be productive and get the job done.

Torschlusspanik – This beautiful word is used to refer to the feeling you experience at a certain point in your life where you see an imaginary door closing on all your opportunities, and you wonder what could have been. Tor means ‘gate,’ schluss means ‘closing’ or ‘ending,’ and panik means, ‘panic.’ So, torschlusspanik literally translates to ‘gate closing panic.’

Treppenwitz – Possibly the most useful untranslatable word on this list, treppenwitz describes all the things you should have said in the heat of the moment but only think of when it is too late. Also known as, the best comeback line you never said.

Waldeinsamkeit – The feeling of being alone in the woods. Derived from two German words ‘wald,’ meaning forest, and ‘einsamkeit,’ meaning loneliness, it refers to a connectedness with nature and the peace experienced in that moment.

WeicheiWeichei is a German slang term which used to refer to a cowardly person. Literally meaning ‘a soft egg’, the closest English equivalent would be ‘wimp’.

Weltschmerz – The literal translation of the word is ‘world grief’, or ‘world-pain’,  a term first coined by the German author Jean Paul. Weltschmerz refers to a deep sadness about the imperfection and pain of the world.

VerschlimmbessernVerschlimmbessern describes the act of trying to make something better, only to end up making it worse than it initially was. In English, you might say something like ‘to put your foot in it’.

Learn German for travel! Get my free German travel phrase guide here.


Filotimo (φιλότιμο)Filotimo is almost impossible to translate but can be summed up as ‘love of honour’. It describes a person who understands the responsibility to themselves, as a human, being to always do the right thing and with honour. Even if their wealth, safety, freedom, or even life is at peril. No matter what, this person will do the honourable thing, regardless of the consequence.

Beautiful Untranslatable Words - Greek - PareaParea (παρέα) – In Greek culture, a parea is when a group of friends gather to share life experiences, philosophies, values, and ideas.

Psithurism (Ψυθισμός)Psithurism is the rustling sound of leaves in the wind. It comes from the Greek psithuros, meaning ‘whispering, slanderous.’

Beautiful Untranslatable Words - Greek - MerakiMeraki (μεράκι)Meraki is when you pour yourself wholeheartedly into doing something with soul, creativity, or love that you leave a piece of yourself in your work.

Learn Greek for travel! Get my free Greek travel phrase guide here.


Beautiful Untranslatable Words - Greek - Pana Po’oPana Po’o – The act of scratching your head in an attempt to remember something you’ve forgotten.

Beautiful Untranslatable Words - Hawaiian - AkihiAkihi –  When you ask someone for directions, walk off, then immediately forget what they said. You’ve gone ‘akihi’.


Beautiful Untranslatable Words - Hebrew - FirgunFirgun (פירגון)Firgun is a Hebrew term and concept in Israeli culture used to describe genuine and sincere happiness for another person without any ulterior motives. This often means a feeling of pure joy on seeing someone else’s accomplishment.

Learn Hebrew for travel! Get my free Hebrew travel phrase guide here.


Chai-Pani (चाय पानी)– The phrase ‘Chai-Pani’ literally meaning, ‘tea and water’, is used to offer welcome drinks and facilitate guests in houses of India. It can also refer to a bribe given to someone, often a bureaucratic worker, to get a job done quickly.

Beautiful Untranslatable Words - Hindi - JijivishaJijivisha (जिजीविषा) – This Hindi word conveys an intense desire to live life to the fullest. The word often refers to a person who lives with intense emotions and ambitious desires, seeking to thrive.

Beautiful Untranslatable Words - Hindi - NamasteNamaste (नमस्ते) – Namaste is both a gesture and divine greeting that sends a message of peace to the universe in the hopes of receiving a positive message back. Namaste comes from the Sanskrit namas (bowing) te (to you) and is often translated to ‘I bow to the divine in you’. 

Viraha (विरह) – Realising you love someone only after you’re separated.

Learn Hindi for travel! Get my free Hindi travel phrase guide here.


Elmosolyodni – A kind of smile that forms when something isn’t especially funny, but you can’t help but smile anyway.

Házisárkány – A nickname for your spouse or better half who is constantly nagging. It literally means an ‘Domestic Dragon’


Dalalæða – A low waist-deep fog that forms after a warm and sunny day. It literally means, ‘a fog that sneaks up from the bottom of a valley’ or ‘valley-sneak.’

Beautiful Untranslatable Words - Icelandic - GluggaveðurGluggaveður – When the weather looks pleasant from your window, but is actually really cold that you need a jacket. Gluggaveður literally means ‘window-weather.

Þetta reddast – Pronounced [THETTA red-ahst], Þetta reddast is Iceland’s unofficial motto that loosely translates as ‘everything will work out in the end’.

Tima – Being unwilling to spend time or money on a particular thing, even though you can afford it.

Learn Icelandic for travel! Get my free Icelandic travel phrase guide here.


Jayus – A joke so terrible and unfunny that you can’t help but laugh. It’s funny because it’s not funny, kind of like a dad joke. 

Beautiful Untranslatable Words - Indonesian - MencolekMencolek – A lighthearted prank where you trick someone by tapping their opposite shoulder from where you’re standing in order to fool them. That’s mencolek!


Beautiful Untranslatable Words - Inuit - IktsuarpokIktsuarpok (ᐃᒃᑦᓱᐊᕐᐳᒃ) – From the Eastern Canadian Inuktitut, one of the principal Inuit languages of Canada, Iktsuarpok is the act of repeatedly going outside to keep checking if someone (anyone) is coming. Somewhere between impatience and anticipation. Iktsuarpok refers to the feeling of anticipation and impatient excitement that the person you’re waiting for has arrived.


Cúbóg – A batch of Easter eggs. 

Learn Irish for travel! Get my free Irish travel phrase guide here.


Beautiful Untranslatable Words - Italian - AbbioccoAbbiocco – This is one of my favourite Roman dialect words. It describes the drowsiness or ‘carb coma’ you feel following having eaten a big meal. 

Attaccabottoni – Literally, ‘attach buttons’, an attaccabottoni is a chatty person who corners you to tell you long, meaningless stories, in endless detail about their life.

Cavoli riscaldati – Literally reheated cabbage, this is essentially an attempt to reheat an old romance. In other parts of Italy, ‘minestra riscaldata‘ or ‘zuppa riscaldata’, meaning reheated soup, is used to describe the same sentiment.

Commovente – Often translated as ‘heartwarming,’ but it directly refers to being moved to tears. The verb commuovere  means to move, to touch, to stir emotions.

Culaccino – Culaccino refers to the dregs in a glass but also the residue or water ring left on a surface by a moist, cold glass or other small container. In Italian, ‘culo‘ means bottom.

Gattara – A woman devoted to caring for and feeding stray or domestic cats. A more extreme version of a cat lover.

Fare la scarpetta – To finish up the contents of your plate, especially the sauce, with a piece of bread.

Beautiful Untranslatable Words - Italian - MeriggiareMeriggiare – An Italian verb meaning to rest or relax at midday, usually in a shady spot on a sunny day. From ‘meriggio’ meaning ‘midday’.

Learn Italian for travel! Get my free Italian travel phrase guide here.


Age-otori (上げ劣り) – Pronounced [aah-gey-oh-toh-ree], Age-otori is a beautiful Japanese word that perfectly sums up a disaster haircut that makes you look worse than before.

Arigata-meiwaku (ありがためいわく) – This is used to refer to an act that someone does for you, even though you didn’t want to have them do it and tried to avoid having them do. They might have gone ahead,  determined to do you a favour, then things going wrong, causing you a lot of trouble. In spite of this, social conventions required you to still express gratitude. What a mouthful! Yet the Japanese have a simple concise term that says it all in just 2 words, arigata-meiwaku.

Bakku-shan (バックシャン) – This dating slang term literally means ‘back beautiful’ and is used to describe a girl who is beautiful, as long as you’re looking at her from behind! Harsh!  An English equivalent could be either ‘good from afar, but far from good’, or ‘Butter face’ – where everything but her face is attractive). What makes this Japanese word so interesting is that it’s not Japanese at all, it’s a composite of バック (bakku, ‘back’, from English back) and‎ シャン (shan, ‘beautiful’, from German schön).

Boketto (ぼけっと) – Gazing vacantly into the distance without thinking of anything specific, in other words, daydreaming.

Chindōgu (珍道具) – A prank originating from Japan, which is done by a person seemingly inventing ingenious everyday gadgets that seem like an ideal solution to a particular problem, but are in fact nothing more than a useless gag. Literally translated, chindōgu means unusual (珍, chin) tool (道具, dōgu). 

Beautiful Untranslatable Words - Japanese - IkigaiIkigai (生きがい)Ikigai is a Japanese concept often translated to ‘your life purpose’, ‘a reason for being’ or getting up in the morning. Ikigai refers to having a direction or purpose in life which makes one’s life worthwhile and full of meaning. But is not just limited to this, it can also be something as small as a daily ritual you enjoy.

Beautiful Untranslatable Words - Japanese - KaizenKaizen (改善) –  Kaizen is a Japanese term and method meaning ‘change for the better’ or ‘continuous improvement.’ It’s a method for transforming habits incrementally, one step at a time, in order to continuously improve. It’s also a famous Japanese business philosophy where employees make small adjustments to processes that compound over time resulting in increased productivity.

Beautiful Untranslatable Words - Japanese - Koi no yokanKoi no yokan (恋の予感) – The feeling of excitement you get when you first meet someone and know that you will eventually fall in love with them and are hopeful about being more than just friends. This is a more realistic version of ‘love at first sight’. Koi no yokan comes from 恋 (koi) is romantic love, and 予感 (yokan) roughly translates to ‘premonition’ or ‘hunch’, and roughly translates to ‘premonition of love’.

Beautiful Untranslatable Words - Japanese - KomorebiKomorebi (木漏れ日) – This Japanese word beautiful describes the scattered sunlight that filters through the leaves on the trees. The word is composed of three kanji and the hiragana particles れ. While the first kanji refers to ‘tree’ or ‘trees,’ the second one means to ‘escape,’ and the third signifies ‘light’ or ‘sun.’ 

Kyōiku mama (教育ママ) – Pronounced [ky-oh-ee-kuu-mama], Kyōiku mama is an offensive Japanese term used to describe a mother who relentlessly pushes her children to achieve academic excellence. It literally translates to ‘education mother’.

Mono no aware (物の哀れ) – Literally ‘the pathos of things’, and also translated as ‘an empathy toward things’. The term Mono no aware was coined by Motoori Norinaga, an eighteenth century literary scholar, who combined aware, which means sensitivity or sadness, and mono, which means ‘things.’ Norinaga believed that this feeling was at the very centre of Japanese culture. 

Nekama (ネカマ)Nekama refers to a certain type of male, who in their normal daily life are usually heterosexual, however, online they represent themselves as female. Thus, this term commonly refers to a man pretending to be a woman on the internet, regardless of his sexuality.

Shouganai (しょうがない) – A Japanese philosophy that states that if something is meant to be and cannot be controlled, then why worry about it? The idea is that worrying won’t prevent the bad things from happening; it will only deprive you of the joy of enjoying the good things in life. Translated literally, shouganai means ‘it can’t be helped’.

Tatemae (建前) and Honne (本音)Tatemae has the specific cultural meaning. It refers to the behaviour that Japanese people adopt in public, according to what is socially accepted or not by Japanese society. It could be translated as the ‘public facade’. Privately held views that you would never admit in public is called honne.

Tsundoku (積ん読) – How many times have you bought a book but never read it? This is called tsundoku, a beautiful word used to describe the act of buying books but letting them pile without ever reading them. The term originated in the Meiji era (1868–1912) as Japanese slang. The word consists of tsunde-oku (積んでおく, to pile things up ready for later and leave) and dokusho (読書, reading books). It is also used to refer to books ready for reading later when they are on a bookshelf.

Wabi-Sabi (侘寂) – This is a beautiful Japanese concept that represents finding beauty in imperfections. It allows us to accept that growth and decay are a natural process. In traditional Japanese aesthetics, wabi-sabi is a world view centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection.  Wabi-sabi is a concept derived from the Buddhist teaching of the three marks of existence (三法印, sanbōin), specifically impermanence (無常, mujō), suffering (苦, ku) and emptiness or absence of self-nature (空, kū).

Beautiful Untranslatable Words - Japanese - Yoko MeshiYoko meshi (横飯) – Used to convey the stress-induced while speaking a foreign language, the literal meaning is ‘a meal eaten sideways’. Need help learning a language? Check out my guide to the best language learning resources here.

Yūgen (幽玄)  – Yūgen is an important concept in traditional Japanese aesthetics. It refers to the sad beauty associated with human suffering, coupled with a sense of profound mysterious sense and beauty of the universe.

Related: 69 Wonderful Japanese Expressions That Will Brighten Your Day


Mokita – From the Kivila language native to Papua New Guinea, mokita is a commonly known truth that no one wants to admit or talk about. 


Beautiful Untranslatable Words - Korean - DapjeongneoDapjeongneo (답정너) – A situation where you’re ‘the right thing’ by telling the other person what they want to hear, even though you might not actually believe it. Sort of like telling a white lie to avoid causing offence.

Gosohada (고소하다) – The feeling you get when someone finally gets what they deserves. When you think to yourself ‘HA serves you right!’, that’s Gosohada.

Gilchi (길치) – What you call someone who has a terrible sense of direction and who constantly gets lost.

Hyo – Pronounced [hee-yo], this is both a name meaning ‘dutiful’ and a term to describe the sense of duty children have towards their parents and the expectation that they may need to make sacrifices for them out of respect.


Beautiful Untranslatable Words - Latvian - KaapshljmurslisKaapshljmurslisKaapshljmurslis is used to describe the uncomfortable cramped feeling you get when you’re in a crowded bus or train during rush hour.


Nepakartojama – A never-to-be-repeated perfect situation. Directly translated, it means ‘unable to repeat’


ManjaManja is a person who shows so much outward love and affection towards someone they care about, like a spouse, partner, or child, to the point where they are pampering or spoiling them

Beautiful Untranslatable Words - Malay - Pisan ZapraPisan Zapra – The time it takes to eat a banana. Which apparently, is roughly two minutes.

Māori (Cook Islands Maori) 

Papakata – To have one leg shorter than the other.


Dugnad – Is a type of community day where Norwegians get together to help clean up their neighbourhoods by fixing, cleaning, painting or just tidying things up. A dugnad takes place around the change in seasons. Every Norwegian has participated in a dugnad. It’s a great occasion to socialise with your neighbours, which – if you live in Norway – you will know is pretty rare. The added benefit is that a dugnad is usually accompanied by kaffe og kaker (coffee and cakes).

Beautiful Untranslatable Words - Norwegian - ForelsketForelsket – The indescribable euphoria you feel when you start to fall in love with someone.

Pålegg –  Anything that you can put on top of open-faced sandwiches, such as brun øst (Norwegian Cheese) cold cute, tomatoes, lettuce, spreads or other topping.

Beautiful Untranslatable Words - Norwegian - UtepilsUtepils – Pronounced [OOH-ta-pilz], Utepils is a beautiful Norwegian compound word where ute means ‘out, outside, outdoors’ and pils means ‘lager’, so it literally translates to ‘outdoors lager’. Utepils is the act of enjoying a beer  while sitting outside on a sunny day – usually after surviving a long winter. Utepils is also the name of a famous brewing company.

Uffda! / Uff da!  – Is a versatile interjection and expression which basically means ‘Oh, I’m sorry to hear that’. It expresses surprise, astonishment, exhaustion, relief, and can be used to express empathy. It means a combination of ‘Ouch for you!’ and ‘I’m so sorry that you hurt yourself’. Within Scandinavian-American culture, Uff da often translates to, ‘I am overwhelmed’. 

YrYr can only be described as a very specific kind of rainfall with tiny, almost floating  raindrops (or snowflakes). It’s similar to drizzle or mist but one as one Norwegian puts it ‘It paints a picture not only in how it’s spelled but how it’s said, it’s more a sound than a word. Also when conjugated: ‘det yrer litt‘. I see foggy whispers of misty rain in the fjords.’ (Source). I think this is the most beautiful untranslatable word I’ve learned so far since learning Norwegian.

Learn Norwegian for travel! Get my free Norwegian travel phrase guide here.

Pascuense (Easter Island)

Beautiful Untranslatable Words - Pascuense - TingoTingo – Continuously borrowing items  from a neighbour’s house and not returning them, thereby gradually stealing everything from them one-by-one until there is nothing left.


Zhaghzhagh – Pronounced [zhaang-zhaah-gh], it’s the uncontrollable chattering of teeth, either due to the cold, or from intense rage.


Dożywocie – A contract between parents and children, guaranteeing lifetime care in exchange for real estate.

FormacjaFormacja is used in colloquial speech to describe a state of mind that is widespread across a particular generation or period of time. The closest English word would be ‘zeitgeist’.

Kilkanaście – This Polish word refers specifically to any number between 12 and 19 and is used in a similar way as the English ‘umpteen’ or ‘many’, but neither translation is quite correct. 

Kombinować – To make something or try to resolve a problem with the bare minimum and in an unusual way. This could be as a result of having limited access to resources or knowledge.

Radioukacz – Telegraphists who were part of the resistance movements on the Soviet side of the Iron Curtain.

ZalatwicZalatwic means ‘to get done’, but in a very specific way and is often either illegal or bends the rules. It involves using a bribe, political clout or connections, or simply personal charm to get the job done. This was especially common in Poland during the days of communism in Poland where it was probably impossible to live without ‘zalatwic’.


Beautiful Untranslatable Words - Portuguese - SaudadeSaudadeSaudade is an untranslatable Portuguese term that describes a solemn and melancholic feeling of longing. Saudade can be a longing for something which does not and probably cannot exist or refer to the love that remains long after someone or something is gone and may not return – a nostalgic longing for a person or thing that was loved once, but is now lost. This feeling is a recurring theme in Portuguese and Brazilian literature. Brazil celebrates a day of Saudade every January.

DesenrascançoDesenrascanço literally means ‘disentanglement’, a term used in Portugal to describe the act of ‘disentangling’ oneself from a difficult situation by using all available means to solve the problem. 

Beautiful Untranslatable Words - Portuguese - CafuneCafuné – The act of tenderly running your fingers through someone’s hair in a loving way. 

Learn Portuguese for travel! Get my free Portuguese travel phrase guide here.


Dor – A sad longing or yearning for someone.

Soare cu Dinti – When you look out the window and it looks lovely and sunny until you actually step outside. Soare cu Dinti describes a beautiful sunny, but very cold day.

Rukwangali (Namibia)

Beautiful Untranslatable Words - Rukwangali - HanyaukuHanyauku – Pronounced [ha-ahn-yoh-kuu], this Rukwangali word spoken by Namibians, refers to the act of tiptoeing across warm or hot sand.  


Listopad (листопа́дъ) – The falling of leaves.

Odnoliub (однолюб) – Someone that only has one love in their life or is only capable of a single person at a time.

Pochemuchka (почемучка)Pochemuchka is a person, usually a child, who asks too many questions. Pronounced [POH-chay-MOO-chka[, it comes from the Russian word pocemu [POH-chay-MUH], which means ‘Why?.’ Pochemuchka was first used in a popular Soviet-era children’s book whose boy hero was given the nickname Alyosha Pochemuchka because he was never satisfied with the answers he got. Pochemuchka is a light-hearted put-down that might be expressed in English with a warning like ‘curiosity killed the cat’.

Razljubit (разлюбить)Razljubit is the opposite feeling of the Norwegian forelsket when you first fall in love. It’s the feeling you have towards someone you were once in love with. When you see or think of them, you may feel a twinge of affection, but by now it’s totally platonic. That’s razljubit.

Toska (тоска)Toska is the feeling of anguish, sadness, or melancholia, even though there’s no specific cause. Often spiritual in nature, this is a deep sadness that touches the soul.

Zapoi (Запой)Zapoi describes being drunk for several days and waking up in an unexpected place that you don’t recognize.

Zloradstvovat (злорадствовать)Zloradstvovat means to be devilishly happy’, in the evil way, when seeing someone’s misfortune, pain, or loss.

Learning Russian? Check out these hilarious Russian idioms and expressions


Faamiti – Pronounced [fah-mih-tee], faamiti is a high-pitched noise made by sucking air through tightly-sealed lips in order to attract the attention of a pet or children.


Beautiful Untranslatable Words - Scottish Gaelic - SgriobSgrìob –  This Scottish Gaelic term describes the tingle of anticipation felt in the upper lip before drinking whisky.

Suilk – Pronounced [swilk], this Scottish word means to make an abnormal amount of noise whilst such as to swallow, gulp, or suck with a slobbering noise. Suilk is now used in English and even has English verb conjugations, ‘suilking‘ is the act, and a ‘suilker‘ is one who suilks.

Tartle – The moment where you hesitate when introducing someone because you’ve just forgotten their name. You’ve just tartled, so you say, ‘Pardon my tartle!’

Learn Scots for travel! Get my free Scots travel phrase guide here.


Beautiful Untranslatable Words - Serbian - MerakMerak – This beautiful Serbian word refers to the pursuit of small pleasures everyday, which all adds up to a feeling of contentment, fulfilment and oneness with the larger purpose and the universe.


Beautiful Untranslatable Words - Slovenia - VedritiVedriti – To shelter from the rain, either literally or metaphorically, such as when you’re in a bad mood and you’re waiting for the negative emotions to pass.

Spregledati – To simultaneously understand someone on a deeper level, whilst also overlooking it.


Anteayer – This single word means ‘the day before yesterday’. Anteayer is made up of the Spanish word ante, meaning before or in front of, and ayer, meaning yesterday. In some parts of Latin America and rural Spain, antier is used instead. 

ChingadaChingada is a vulgar term commonly used in colloquial Mexican Spanish that shouldn’t be thrown around lightly. It can either refer to a special kind of hellish place that’s far away, where you send anyone who irritates you, like when you say ‘go to Hell’, or can be used as a variation of the f-word. Chingada stems from the verb chingar which means to ruin, annihilate, screw or f**k. Like I said, be careful how you use it, if at all!

Desvelado – While the Spanish are known for their siestas, they also have a word which means the complete opposite. Desvelado literally means ‘awake’ and comes from the verb desvelar, which means ‘to reveal’ or ‘to keep awake’. It can also be translated into English as being wide awake, unable to sleep, or sleepless. 

Duende – The word duende has two distinct meanings. The term derives from ‘duen de casa‘ (master of the house), referring to a magical, mythical creature or spirit such as an elf, leprechaun, or even a goblin found in Spanish and Latin American folklore.  The second, and more interesting and beautiful definition, describes the heightened state of emotion, expression, and expression that a performer gives off that draws in the audience. Duende or tener duende (‘to have duende’) is a Spanish term that is traditionally connected with flamenco and other activities that evoke Spanish fiery passion, like bullfighting. In some parts of Spain, duende is used to describe someone who is charming or alluring.

Encandilar – The aftermath of seeing a sudden bright flash of light, often associated with seeing spots. Encandilar comes from the Spanish verb encandilarse, meaning ‘to be dazzled/blinded by’.

EstrenarEstrenar means ‘first time’ or the beginning of something. It’s used to describe the first time you do, wear or use something for the first time. Don’t you just love that feeling?

FrioleroFriolero describes a person who is particularly susceptible and sensitive to cold weather, prone to easily feeling cold. A similar term also exists in Italian, freddoloso.

Beautiful Untranslatable Words - Spanish - MadrugadaMadrugada – The term madrugada is both Spanish and Portuguese and means to get up early in the morning at twilight – the time between midnight and the crack of dawn.

Pena ajenaAjeno/a generally means ‘someone else’s’ or ‘other people’s’. Literally, meaning ‘sorry for others’, pena ajena is the feeling of humiliation or embarrassment you get upon watching another person’s embarrassment. It’s so embarrassing that it makes you cringe. 

Sobremesa – Shared mealtimes are a very important part of Spanish culture, and the time spent after the meal just chatting and relaxing is very important. So important that they even have a word to describe it. Sobremesa literally means ‘over the table,’  is a Spanish expression that describes that wonderful period after the meal is finished but you continue sitting at the table chatting and enjoy each other’s company.

Tuerto – A one-eyed man, blind in one eye .

Tutear – To speak to someone you know well (usually friends and family) informally by addressing using the ‘‘ form instead of the more formal ‘usted‘. The term tutoyer is used in French to describe the same thing where the speaker uses the informal second-person pronoun tu rather than the formal vous.

VacinlandoVacilando is a beautiful Spanish word which describes the journey or experience of travelling, is more important than reaching the specific destination.

Learn Spanish for travel! Get my free European Spanish travel phrase guide here and my Latin American travel phrase guide here.


Beautiful Untranslatable Words - Swahili - Hakuna MatataHakuna matata – In the Swahili language, Hakuna matata can be directly translated to ‘there are no troubles’. This phrase was made popular in the English-speaking world thanks to the 1994 Disney movie The Lion King. It can be translated to ‘no worries’ or ‘no dramas’ and means to avoid worrying about things outside of your control. If you’re a fan of the film, here are 20 beautiful African words in ‘The Lion King’ that will make you smile. 


Badkruka – A person who feels somewhat hesitant or doesn’t like to swim in an open body of water due to its low temperature.

BlundaBlunda is a Swedish word that means to close or cover your eyes to avoid seeing something or facing a hard truth. It’s similar to the English expression ‘turn a blind eye’, or can be the simple act of ignoring something.

Duktig – If a Swede says you’re duktig, that’s a huge compliment, because they are saying you’re skilled, capable, or hard-working. Duktig comes from the Swedish verb duga, which means ‘to be good for / to be acceptable for’. You can use duktig on its own, just as you would say ‘you’re such a hard-worker!’ or  ‘good girl/boy!’ to a child. Duktig refers to an action of some sort, whether that’s a job or a specific task.

Beautiful Untranslatable Words - Swedish - FikaFikaFika is a special kind of Swedish coffee break that could go on for hours and is more about socialising than drinking coffee. It’s all about gathering together to enjoy coffee, pastries, and conversation.

Beautiful Untranslatable Words - Swedish - GokottaGökotta – I adore this beautiful untranslatable Swedish word. Gökotta describes waking up at dawn, and going outside, just to hear birds chirping and singing.

HarklaHarkla is a fantastic verb that means something very similar to ‘to clear one’s throat’. A perfect example would be the moment before you’re about to give a speech and make a half-cough so you can speak clearly.

HinnaHinna is a common Swedish verb that means ‘to be on time’ ‘to find the time’. 

JobbigJobbig is an all-encompassing word that means troublesome or trying, annoying or difficult. It can be used to refer to people, things, events – almost anything that is difficult, annoying, or tedious.

LagomLagom means ‘just the right amount’, it’s neither too much, nor too little, but juuuuuust right. Lagom is important in Swedish culture, where you don’t want to ‘stand out’ but having or doing too much.

Beautiful Untranslatable Words - Swedish - MångataMångataMångata refers to a long, wavy, road-like reflection of the moon that often appears on water. It draws its origin from ‘måne‘ meaning moon, and ‘gata‘ meaning street or road. So, mångata literally means ‘moon road’.

Mormor / farmor / morfar / farfar – We could definitely use these genius Swedish compound words in English to describe each of our grandparents. Mormor, farmor, morfar, farfar literally means mothermother, fathermother, motherfather, fatherfather – respectively. That is, mormor is your mother’s mother, farmor is your father’s mother, morfar is your mother’s father and farfar is your father’s father. So, the question is, do you want to see more of mormor and less of farfar? So see farmor far less? And while we’re at it, barnbarn (literally, ‘childchild’) is the Swedish word for grandchild.

MysaMysa is a Swedish verb for feeling content, cozy and enjoying oneself, especially at home. Not to be confused with the Danish, hygge which relates to any activity or part of your day, mysa refers specifically to being at home. 

Orka – This common verb in the Swedish language means ‘to have the energy’.

Beautiful Untranslatable Words - Swedish - ResfeberResfeberResfeber refers to the mixture of anxiety and anticipation before a trip or journey begins. Resfeber is considered one of the most beautiful travel words.

Tidsoptimist  – Literally, a ‘time optimist’ this is a person who is constantly late because they think they have more time than they actually do.

Tretår – When two cups of coffee isn’t enough, you go for a second refill or ‘threefill’ of coffee. In Swedish, ‘tår’ means a cup of coffee and ‘patår’ is the refill of said coffee. A ‘tretår’ is therefore a second refill, or a threefill.

Vobba – Describes the very specific act of a parent taking a paid day off to take care of their sick child but still work, for example they check emails or take calls. Vobba is a mash-up of the two verbs att vabba (to take care of a child) and att jobba (to work).

Vabba – From vobba, comes vabba, a shortened version of vård av barn, which means ‘to be at home with the kids’.

Learn Swedish for travel! Get my free Swedish travel phrase guide here 


Beautiful Untranslatable Words - Tagalog - GigilGigilGigil is the overwhelming feeling that comes over you when you see something unbearably cute that you want to squeeze or pinch it. Kind of like when your grandma wanted to pinch your cheeks when you were a child.

Tampó – In Filipino culture, tampó is when a person withdraws his or her affection or cheerfulness towards someone who has hurt them. A mild case of ‘to hold a grudge’ where you’re someone between hurt and disappointed.  It usually occurs between people related to each other. For example, when a husband forgets to bring his wife flowers for their anniversary, she can have ‘tampó‘ against him.

KiligKilig can be roughly translated as ‘romantic excitement’, it describes the happiness and giddiness you feel when something romantic takes place, either to you or someone else. It’s the feeling of butterflies in your stomach when you catch your crushes’ eye for the first time, witnessing a marriage proposal, or watching your favourite TV show couple. 


Oodal – An exaggerated, fake anger that usually follows a quarrel between lovers.

Tshiluba (Congo)

Beautiful Untranslatable Words - Tshiluba - IlungaIlunga – Pronounced [ee-lun-ga], this is a person who is ready to forgive someone once, tolerate it a second time, but never a third time. Kind of like, three strikes and you’re out!

Tulu (Indian)

Karelu – The mark left on the skin from wearing something tight, such as jeans, socks, or a bra.


Beautiful Untranslatable Words - Turkish - CigerpareCiğerpare – This beautiful word literally has Persian origins and literally means ‘liver part’. It refers to someone that you love as much as your own body. Lovers or friends may call each other ciğerparem, meaning ‘my liver part.’


Goya – This Urdu word refers to a feeling of wonder and disbelief that accompanies a particularly realistic fantasy. The suspension of disbelief makes it seem so real that it temporarily becomes reality. This is usually associated with good storytelling.


Beautiful Untranslatable Words - Wagiman - Murr-maMurr-ma – This beautiful word comes from Wagiman, an almost extinct Australian Aboriginal language spoken in Australia’s Northern Territory. It describes feeling around in water with your feet to find something.


Glas wen – The literal translation is ‘blue smile’, and is used to describe a mocking sarcastic smile.

Hiraeth – Pronounced [here-eyeth] (roll the ‘r’), this beautiful Welsh word is much like the Portuguese saudade mentioned earlier or the Romanian dor,  it conveys a feeling of homesickness, sense of regret, along with a general sadness over the lost or departed. This is a longing for one’s homeland, or even a romanticized past, with a yearning for it to come back.


Beautiful Untranslatable Words - Yaghan - MamihlapinatapeiMamihlapinatapei – The word mamihlapinatapai (sometimes also spelled mamihlapinatapei) comes from the Yaghan language of Tierra del Fuego in Southern Argentina. Mamihlapinatapai is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the ‘most succinct word’ and is considered extremely difficult to translate. Mamihlapinatapai is a meaningful, but wordless exchange between two people, who both desire to initiate something but are hesitant to act on it. It also can refer to a private but non-verbal exchange shared by two people, one where each knows that the other understands and agrees what is being expressed. 


Shlimazl (שלימזל) – A chronically unlucky, usually inept, clumsy person.

Beautiful Untranslatable Words - Yiddish - TrepverterTrepverter – Literally, ‘staircase words’, trepverter is a witty comeback you think of only after it’s too late. 

Luftmensch (לופֿטמענטש‎)Luftmensch is used to refer a person with their head in the clouds. They are more concerned with airy intellectual pursuits than practical matters like earning an income. From the Yiddish לופֿט‎ (luft, ‘air’) and מענטש‎ (mentsh, ‘man’).

Farpotshket – Pronounced [fahr-POTS-SKEHT], farpotshket is when you or someone you trust tries to fix something but only ends up making things worse, causing irreparable damage. All you can do is shrug, knowing that you should’ve known better. Farpotshket also has an associated verb – potshky (POTs-ski), which means ‘to fiddle with something in a well-meaning and purposeful way, but with a complete lack of competence.’

Chutzpah – Is an untranslatable Yiddish word for adopting a ‘don’t-take-no-for-an-answer’ attitude where you’ll build up the guts to do something ballsy.


Beautiful Untranslatable Words - Zulu - UbuntuUbuntu – The act of being kind to others because of one’s common humanity. Ubuntu is frequently translated as ‘I am because we are,’ or ‘humanity towards others’. 

Over to you!

Which one of these words in your favourite? Was it the Malay, pisan zapra – the time it takes to eat a banana or the Portuguese cafuné – the act of tenderly running your fingers through someone’s hair. Share your favourites in the comments.

Can you think of any other ‘untranslatable’ words? Have you ever come across words and phrases that could not be translated into your native language? Let me know in the comments and I’ll add them to the list!

Want to know more about learning languages? Start here!

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Most Beautiful Untranslatable Words from Around the World - The Ultimate List A-Z

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Shameem Ahmed March 28, 2022 - 17:41

I hit your web-page by accident and found the Bengali word ঘোড়ার ডিম to be really really interesting.
You are doing a fantastic job; have farther encouraged me move forward with at least learn another foreign language.
Please keep up with the excellent job.

Best regards

Michele April 1, 2022 - 11:43

I’m so happy to hear that Shameem 🙂 Thank you 🙂

Jan Wiklund June 6, 2021 - 13:53

What about Swedish Dygn, mening 24h?

Michele June 20, 2021 - 02:40

Great addition! Thanks Jan 🙂

Jan Wiklund March 25, 2021 - 22:05

The Norwegian Forelsket is the same in Danish, but spelled Förälskad in Swedish
The concept of Norwegian Dugnad also exists in Finnish but in that language it’s called Talko

Michele April 5, 2021 - 12:19

Thanks for sharing Jan 🙂

Carmen Farah Juneidi February 18, 2021 - 07:12

Spanish has another untranslatable word: ILUSION. It’s the feeling you get when something exciting is going to happen soon, like what a child feels waiting for their Christmas presents. The closest term is excitement, but this doesn’t quite capture the essence of ilusion, which has a more innocent, child-like “excited anticipation” 🙂

Michele April 5, 2021 - 12:27

Thanks for sharing Carmen 🙂

Kimmo Hakkarainen January 29, 2021 - 23:45

The norwegian word utepils could be translated into the finnish compound word “pussikalja”, literally “bag/pouch beer”. As in you buy the beer from a grocery store and then carry it in a plastic bag. Often implies company too, friends to hang around with.

Pussi: a bag or a pouch
Kalja: beer.

Michele April 5, 2021 - 12:23

Thanks for sharing Kimmo 🙂

Jan Wiklund December 21, 2020 - 15:24

The Maori word papakata would translate into Swedish as låghalt.

Jan Wiklund December 21, 2020 - 15:22

You could add to your (Swedish) Mormor/Farmor note that aunt according to the same system would be moster (mother’s sister) and faster (father’s sister) and uncle would be morbror (mother’s brother) and farbror (father’s brother).

Jan Wiklund December 21, 2020 - 15:18

Your Norwegian word pålegg exists also in Swedish with the same meaning, but is spelled pålägg, and in Danish where it’s spelled pålæg.

Perhaps also the Swedish word lokalsinne, meaning “good sense of direction” would make it?


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