interesting untranslatable words

I came home soon from college today. I see no point in sitting aimlessly in a class where the teacher announces that he is in “no mood to teach today” and that we must stay in class and “do some studious work” :-|

Anyway, I’ve found a list of some interesting untranslatable words that I thought I’d share with y’all. It’s interesting how there is a word to express an emotion or a situation in a foreign language but not in our own. List of – Yes, there’s actually a word for it!!: 

  • Ya’aburnee, of Arabic origin, meaning “you bury me”. It is used to express the hope that one will die before another person as it would be difficult to live without them.
  • Saudade, of Portuguese origin, referring to the feeling of longing for someone or something loved, but also lost.
  • Mamihlapinatapai, Yagan (of Tierra del Fuego), used to describe the wordless, yet meaningful look shared by two people who both desire to initiate something but are both reluctant to start.
  • Cafuné, Brazilian Portuguese, tenderly running your fingers through someone’s hair.
  • Wabi-Sabi, Japanese. “A way of living that focuses on finding beauty within the imperfections of life and accepting peacefully the natural cycle of growth and decay.”
  • Duende, Spanish, the mysterious power that a work of art has to deeply move a person.
  • Toska, Russian. “No single word in English renders all the shades of toska. At its deepest and most painful, it is a sensation of great spiritual anguish, often without any specific cause. At less morbid levels it is a dull ache of the soul, a longing with nothing to long for, a sick pining, a vague restlessness, mental throes, yearning. In particular cases, it may be the desire for somebody of something specific, nostalgia, love-sickness. At the lowest level it grades into boredom.”
  • Tartle, – The act of hestitating while introducing someone because you’ve forgotten their name.
  • DépaysementFrench – The feeling that comes from not being in one’s home country.

10 thoughts on “interesting untranslatable words

  1. Hey Priya,

    Nice Post- some words that I particularly like- that cannot be translated to English are:

    Schatz- Its a German word roughly translated to Treasure. When used to describe humans, its a feeling (toward a person) of very deep want and selfless, pure Love.

    Schadenfreude- Which roughly translates into the act of deriving pleasure from another persons miserable state of being (not a sadist, who derives pleasure from physical pain

    I really like Toska- Amazing how a single word can describe such a deep state of emotion.


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