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Words From Other Languages That Have No English Equivalent

Have you ever experienced a moment that you wish you had a word for, but there were just no words available in the English language to describe it? Sure, it can be described with multiple sentences, but one simple word would be much better, right?

As much as English borrows words from outside languages, there are still some words from other cultures that have no English equivalent (but should!). These words depict common feelings, experiences, and personalities but require a much longer explanation in English. With that in mind, here's our list of favorite words in other languages that have no English equivalent.

Words with no English equivalent

Antier (Spanish)

This word means the day before yesterday and would be extremely helpful to have in one's English vocabulary when describing something that happened two days back.

Aware (Japanese)

This word describes the bittersweet and brief moment when you experience transcendent beauty. This one is especially important for Nature lovers.

Backpfeifengesicht (German)

If you've ever looked at somebody and become so annoyed that you just want to hit them in the face, you've experienced "Backpfeifengesicht," which means a face badly in need of a fist.

Bakku-shan (Japanese)

This word is used to describe a beautiful girl as long as she's being viewed from behind. That's not to say that it's a nice word, but one that's used nonetheless.

Bilita Mpash (Bantu)

This word is the opposite of a nightmare, and is used to describe an amazing dream—one that you wished you didn't have to awaken from.

Cafune (Brazilian)

This is the romantic act of tenderly running your fingers through your lover's hair. Of course, such a passionate culture would be the one to create a word describing this romantic act!

Cavoli Riscaldati (Italian)

This word translates literally into "reheated cabbage" and means trying to rekindle an unworkable relationship. As bad as reheated cabbage is, the word is perfect to remind you that second tries probably won't be any more successful than the first one.

Estrenar (Spanish)

When you wear or experience something for the first time—it can apply to anything, from meals to clothes to buying your first home.

Faamiti (Samoan)

To make a squeaking sound by sucking air past the lips in order to gain the attention of a dog or child.

Fargin (Yiddish)

You experience this when you wholeheartedly appreciate the success of others.

Fargin is a Yiddish word describing how you feel when you wholeheartedly appreciate the success of others.
Fargin is a Yiddish word describing how you feel when you wholeheartedly appreciate the success of others. Photo by Nghia Le on Unsplash.

Fernweh (German)

Have you ever felt homesick for a place you've never ever been to? If so, you've experienced fernweh.

Fisselig (German)

If you've ever become so flustered because of someone else's nagging that you were unable to complete a task or were sloppy at doing so, you've experienced fisselig.

Gigil (Filipino)

Remember the aunts and grandmothers in your family who always felt the need to pinch or squeeze your cheeks because they were so cute? They were feeling gigil.

Greng-jai (Thai)

That feeling you get when you don't want someone to do something for you because it would be difficult for them.

Hygge (Danish)

When you're sitting around, relaxing with a few friends and loved ones while having a meal or some drinks, you're experiencing hygge. It is very similar to a feeling of coziness.

Iktsuarpok (Inuit)

When you're waiting around for someone to show up and they aren't on time, this word describes the frustration of that experience.

Kaelling (Danish)

You know that woman who curses at her children in public and causes a big scene, making you feel sorry for her kids? The Danes have a word for her. It doesn't make her any more appealing but at least she gets a fitting word.

Koi No Yokan (Japanese)

This word describes the sensation you get when you meet someone for the first time and somehow know that the two of you will fall in love. It's poetic and possibly not based on reality, but some people swear they've experienced it.

Kummerspeck (German)

This word means the excess weight gained from emotional overeating. That pint of ice cream or multiple slices of chocolate cake might soothe your emotional turmoil, but only temporarily!

Lagom (Swedish)

Goldilocks would have appreciated this word in her story with the three bears. It's synonymous with moderation but specifically means not too much and not too little, but just the right amount.

Layogenic (Tagalog)

This word means someone who is beautiful from a distance but is a mess in a close-up encounter. Instagram filters, anyone?

Litost (Czech)

This word means state of torment created by the sudden sight of one's own misery.

Luftmensch (Yiddish)

While there are several Yiddish words to describe social misfits, this one specifically describes an impractical dreamer with no business sense.

Mamihlapinatapai (Yaghan language of Tierra del Fuego)

This means a look shared by two people, each wishing that the other would initiate something that they both desire but which neither wants to make the first move.

Mencolek (Indonesian)

Have you ever tapped someone lightly on the opposite shoulder from behind to fool them? This is the word for it.

Mencomot (Indonesian)

This is when you steal things of little to no value simply for the excitement of it. You don't really need it, you just need the rush the theft creates.

Pana Po'o (Hawaiian)

This word means when you scratch your head in order to help you remember something you've forgotten. Now, where did I put those car keys?

Pelinti (Buli, Ghana)

You know how when you bite into food that's too hot and try to move it around in your mouth to relieve the pain of it? That's pelinti.

Pochemuchka (Russian)

We all know that annoying classmate who asks a million questions while the teacher is trying to teach. The Russians have a name for him/her.

Razbliuto (Russian)

If you've ever loved someone but are no longer with them, you've experienced this word. It's probably especially useful for Russian poets.

Saudade (Portuguese)

When you experience melancholic longing or nostalgia for a person, place or thing that is far away from you, you're experiencing saudade.

Schadenfreude (German)

If you've ever enjoyed seeing or hearing about someone else's troubles, you've experienced this. It doesn't exactly reflect well on one's moral character, but we've all likely been guilty of it at one point or another.

Schlimazl (Yiddish)

This word is used to describe an inept, bungling person who seems to be forever unlucky.

Seigneur-terraces (French)

Leave it to the French to invent this word, which means someone who sits at tables for a long time in a coffee shop but doesn't spend much money. Perhaps they just need the wi-fi?

Shemomedjamo (Georgian)

This word is used when you accidentally eat a too-large portion of food because it was so good that you couldn't quit.

Shouganai (Japanese)

This describes something that you shouldn't worry about because you can't control the outcome and will only ruin the good moments by worrying. Think of it as another way of describing fate.

Sobremesa (Spanish)

It makes sense that the Spanish, who enjoy lingering for a long time at the table following meals, invented this word. It refers to the moment after eating a meal when the food is gone but the conversation is still flowing at the table.

Sobremesa is a Spanish word describing when the moment when the food is gone but the conversation is still flowing at the table
Sobremesa is a Spanish word describing when the moment when the food is gone but the conversation is still flowing at the table. Photo by Kevin Curtis on Unsplash.

Tartle (Scottish)

We've all experienced this and it's usually embarrassing when it happens, but tartle describes the moment when you're talking to someone you've been introduced to before but you can't remember their name.

Tingo (Pascuense)

This is the act of gradually stealing your neighbor's things by borrowing them and not returning them.

Treppenwitz (German)

Have you ever thought of the perfect comeback remark long after the chance to actually make it? If so, you've experienced treppenwitz.

Tsundoku (Japanese)

If you're in the habit of buying new books, only to never read them, you're guilty of tsundoku.

Tuerto (Spanish)

This is loosely translated to "The One-Eyed" and refers to a man with one eye.

Uffda (Swedish)

This is a sympathetic remark you'd say to someone who is in pain. It basically means that you're sorry they hurt.

Vybafnout (Czech)

Remember when you were a kid and enjoyed jumping out to scare your siblings by saying "boo"? That's exactly what this word means.

Waldeinsamkeit (German)

When you're alone in the woods, this word describes the feeling of it.

Weltschmerz (German)

This is another translation of the expression "first-world problems," and means the weary sadness experienced by privileged youth. It translates literally to "world-grief."

Ya'arburnee (Arabic)

Literally translated as "may you bury me," this word refers to the romantic hope that you will die before someone you love deeply dies, because you cannot imagine living without them.

Yūgen (Japanese)

This is the profound, mysterious sense of the beauty of the universe, and the sad beauty of human suffering. As an important concept in Japanese culture, the exact translation often depends on the context. In Chinese philosophy the term was taken from "yūgen" meaning "dim", "deep" or "mysterious".

Yuputka (Ulwa)

When you walk in the woods at night and feel the phantom sensation of something crawling on your skin, you're experiencing yuputka.

Zeg (Georgian)

Just as the Spanish invented a word that means "the day before yesterday," the Georgians invented one that means "the day after tomorrow."

Zhaghzhagh (Persian)

When your teeth chatter, either from the cold or from rage.

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