23 Fascinating Words With No Direct English Translations

23 Fascinating Words With No Direct English Translations

The claim that Eskimos have about a trillion words for snow may be a false one -- actually, Eskimo languages have about as many synonyms for snow as English does -- but it remains true that the language of a culture can be fascinating and illustrative. It makes sense that Italians, whose meals typically last longer than American's, would have a word for the ring of condensation that appears around a glass that's been sitting on a table.

The following foreign words aren't impossible to translate, they just describe phenomena that would take a sentence or two to describe in English. Some, like the Japanese koi no yokan, a more pragmatic version of love at first sight, are certainly worth adopting.

Here are 23 words with no direct English translations:

Language: German
Meaning: A feeling of enjoyment that comes from seeing or hearing about the troubles of other people

Language: Swedish
Meaning: Associated with moderation, the word means not too much, not too little, but just the right amount. It typically refers to the etiquette of taking your share.

Language: Indonesian
Meaning: Stealing things of small value, mostly for fun rather than out of necessity.

Language: Danish
Meaning: The act of relaxing with loved ones and good friends, usually while enjoying food and drink; the word is associated with coziness.

perfect family

Language: Japanese
Meaning: Connected to the idea of fate, this word means that something can't be helped, so why worry about it?

Language: Yiddish
Meaning: To wholeheartedly appreciate the successes of others.

Language: Portuguese
Meaning: Melancholic longing or nostalgia for a person, place or thing that is far away from you.

Language: Japanese
Meaning: The interplay between light and leaves when sunlight shines through trees.


Language: Czech
Meaning: A feeling that synthesizes grief, sympathy, remorse and longing.

Language: Korean
Meaning: A collective feeling of oppression and isolation. As Los Angeles Times put it in 2011, "it's as amorphous a notion as love or hate: intensely personal, yet carried around collectively, a national torch, a badge of suffering tempered by a sense of resiliency."

Language: Filipino
Meaning: Withdrawing affection from a person when one's feelings have been hurt.

Language: Italian
Meaning: The stain left on a table from a cold glass of water.


Pena ajena
Language: Spanish
Meaning: The feeling of being embarrassed for another person.

Language: German
Meaning: The feeling experienced while alone in the woods, connecting with nature.

Language: Greek
Meaning: The sound of leaves rustling in the wind.

Koi No Yokan
Language: Japanese
Meaning: The feeling upon meeting someone that falling in love with him or her is inevitable.


Language: Georgian
Meaning: This word describes when you continue to eat an entire meal in spite of feeling full.

Language: Russian
Meaning: The feeling one has for someone he or she used to love, but no longer loves.

[CORRECTION: Razbliuto is not a traditionally-used Russian word, but is instead a word used by English linguists, comprised of various elements from Russian language.]

Language: Norwegian
Meaning: The specific feeling experienced while falling in love, rather than simply being in love.

Language: Swedish
Meaning: The glimmering, road-like reflection that the moon creates on the water.

moon water

Language: Turkish
Meaning: The experience of craving certain foods while pregnant.

[CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article listed aşermek as a noun, rather than a verb.

Language: Spanish
Meaning: The time of day occurring between late at night (i.e. past midnight) and early morning.

Pana po’o
Language: Hawaiian
Meaning: The act of scratching one's head in order to remember the location of a misplaced object.

Popular in the Community


What's Hot