Heard of hygge? How about fika or abbiocco? It appears we are familiar with some words in different languages but not others.
Why do some words in different languages just happen to end up in our everyday use and stay there? Who knows, but that’s not to say we can’t learn others that are equally expressive.
I love the English language. So I have to say that it pains me to admit that sometimes, English lacks descriptive adjectives, nouns, or verbs. Here’s one example; you know that lovely sleepy feeling you get after you’ve eaten a full meal? The Italians call that ‘abbiocco’, the desire to nap when you’ve finished a big dinner.
So, in the interests of knowledge, I’m putting my personal pain aside to find those perfect words in different languages that sum up emotions and situations. Let’s hope that some of the following become as popular as hygge!
20 Untranslatable Words in Different Languages
1. Anake (Greek)
This word describes a “binding force or necessity which the classical Greeks knew could not be resisted”. Or, in other words, a powerful force that leads us to our soulmate.
2. Craic (Irish)
This is a term for a great laugh or a good time with other people. You can use it as a noun to describe the fun you had, or to ask ‘Where’s the craic tonight?’
3. Fika (Swedish)
Fika today at 10 am anyone? Don’t worry, it’s nothing painful. Fika is a Swedish word for a scheduled coffee break. It happens twice a day and allows you to ‘pause and reconnect’.
4. Utepils (Norwegian)
Who fancies utepils after work today? The English would have to use far more words than necessary to convey this word. It means going for a nice drink outside after a hard day at work. Those clever Norwegians only have to mention ‘utepils’ and the coats are already on.
5. Treppenwitz (German)
Have you ever been caught with a severe bout of ‘Treppenwitz’? Translated from German it means staircase joke. It represents the situations where you think of a witty response but far too late to use it. Hence, you are on the staircase on your way out when you come up with your funny retort.
6. Schnapsidee (German)
This is another German word that literally translated into English means ‘Schnapps Idea’. Or, in other words, any kind of silly plan one comes up with when drunk.
7. Saudade (Portuguese)
Saudade is a beautiful word of Portuguese origins that is quite difficult to fully explain. It’s the love we feel when a person has gone. The precious memories we have that evoke happiness and joy, but also the emptiness of knowing that person is gone forever.
It can also be used to describe a feeling of loss for something we never had, like unrequited love.
8. Desenrascanco (Portuguese)
This is another Portuguese word and loosely originates from the words ‘des’ which means “un” and ‘enrascar’ meaning “to entangle.” The literal translation is to cleverly disentangle oneself from a bad situation, but, with the ability to use one’s imagination in ingenious ways.
9. Sitzfleisch (German)
The literal translation of this German word is ‘sit flesh’. Germans also translate this word as ‘sit meat’ and ‘butt flesh’. However, the meaning of the word is the ability to endure a boring task whilst sitting.
10. Sitzpinkler (German)
Another German word beginning with ‘sitz’, or sit. But this one is a derogatory term for a man who sits down when he has a pee.
11. Gigil (Philippines)
Tagalog is a language spoken in the Phillippines. In Tagalog, gigil means an extreme urge to hug and squeeze someone. It works as a positive emotion, for example, “That baby is so adorable, I just want to squeeze her!” or a negative one, “You’re so irritating I could squeeze some sense into you!”
12. Tampo (Philippines)
No, it’s not what you think. Tampo is a pretend tantrum, thrown in order to elicit an apology from someone. To throw a good tampo try stamping your feet, pouting your lips and crossing your arms.
13. Cafune (Portuguese)
There’s something very relaxing about a spot of cafune. This is a Portuguese word and it means caressing or tenderly running your fingers through your loved one’s hair. You can also use this word for cats and dogs.
14. Viitsima (Estonian)
Have you ever felt like you just can’t be bothered to do anything? That feeling of laziness and lethargy where you have no interest and don’t want to make an effort? Viitsima is Estonian for this emotion.
15. Gezelligheid (Dutch)
Gezelligheid is a Dutch word and has a similar meaning to hygge. It is the warm, cozy, pleasant feeling of being at home, surrounded by good friends and family.
16. Dar un toque (Spanish)
Ever called a mobile and then quickly cut off the call so that the other person will call you back, thus saving you money? Dar un toque, or ‘give a touch’ is Spanish and used for all kinds of fast communications, such as a quick ‘thinking of you’, ‘I’m home safely’, or ‘I’m on my way’.
17. Мерзлячка (Russian)
Some words in different languages are definitely harder to pronounce than others. But if you know someone that hates the cold, you might want to learn this word. In Russian, a ‘Merzlyachka’ is usually a female who is extremely sensitive to cold environments and does not tolerate freezing temperatures.
18. Aktivansteher (German)
How good are you at spotting the right queue to join? If you’re anything like me, you’ll get stuck behind the person that ends up with a problem and takes ages to sort it out.
However, the aktivansteher is a person with an uncanny skill of spotting the fastest queue. They move with zen-like efficiency and are gone before we have even started taking our shopping out of our trollies.
19. Hüftgold (German)
I realize that in this list of words in different languages, there are many German words that made the cut. But there were just so many amazing ones I couldn’t resist.
For example, people that love their food in Germany are celebrated. As a result, the extra weight people carry on their hips is known as Hüftgold, or ‘hip gold’.
20. Wortschatz (German)
My final example and my favorite in this list of words in different languages is Wortschatz. It is German, the literal meaning is ‘word treasure’ and it is the German word for vocabulary.
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