Different cultures from around the world have described emotions and feelings you never thought about. In this article, you will learn some of them.

We live in an age where science is at its peak and we are making more amazing discoveries than ever before. This is especially true of neuroscience, which in recent years has advanced dramatically.

Scientists have conducted extensive research into brain imaging and can now locate with exact precision where in our brains certain emotions and feelings originate from.

One such researcher is Tiffany Watt-Smith from the Centre for the History of the Emotions and Queen Mary University in London.

“It’s this idea that what we mean by ‘emotion’ has evolved,” Smith says. “It’s now a physical thing — you can see a location of it in the brain.”

In fact, Smith has published a fascinating and eye-opening book on this topic titled ‘The Book of Human Emotions’. In this book, she gives 154 words used in different cultures from around the world that describe very specific emotions and feelings that either were impossible for you to describe before or perhaps you never even realised you had them.

According to Smith, naming a feeling makes it more manageable to deal with.

“It’s a long-held idea that if you put a name to a feeling, it can help that feeling become less overwhelming,” she said. “All sorts of stuff that’s swirling around and feeling painful can start to feel a bit more manageable.”

Here is a selection of ten of those words about emotions and feelings.


This is a word used by the Dusun Baguk people of Indonesia, and according to Smith it is described as

“the sudden experience of feeling constricted, inferior and awkward around people of higher status.”

Although we may view this as a negative feeling, it is in fact perceived by this culture as good manners and as an appropriate sign of respect.


A French word for “the ‘strange excitement’ of wanton destruction,” according to Smith’s description. Borrowing her phrasing from sociologist Roger Caillois, she says

“Caillois traced ilinx back to the practices of ancient mystics who by whirling and dancing hoped to induce rapturous trance states and glimpse alternative realities,” Smith writes. “Today, even succumbing to the urge to create a minor chaos by kicking over the office recycling bin should give you a mild hit.”


A term coined by sociologist Fred Goldner, this word means the complete opposite of paranoia – in Smith’s words, the “strange, creeping feeling that everyone’s out to help you.”


A Japanese word, in Smith’s definition, meaning “leaning on another person’s goodwill”.  In other words, feeling a deep and fulfilling trust in any close relationship, comparable to a childish type of selfish love.

As the Japanese psychoanalyst, Takeo Doi puts it,

“an emotion that takes the other person’s love for granted.”


This is a Finnish word describing feeling homesick for a place you have never been to. It can also be described as an inherent wanderlust, a “craving for a distant land” – a feeling that will resonate with any travel lover.


A literal translation from German meaning “gate-closing panic,” this word perfectly describes the sensation that time is running out, or that life is passing you by.


This is a fun and playful word for teasing or annoying someone on purpose, to see how far you can go until they snap. Akin to pushing someone’s buttons, many of us with siblings will relate to this.

L’appel du vide

An interesting French word meaning “the call of the void.” Sometimes our emotions and feelings can be unpredictable and unreliable, which is a big reason why we shouldn’t let them dictate our behavior.

In the words of philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre this emotion

“creates an unnerving, shaky sensation of not being able to trust one’s own instincts.”


Literal French for decountrification (being without a country) and the feeling of being an outsider. The actual emotion itself is a “kind of giddiness, only ever felt when far away from home” which can sometimes make people do crazy and ‘yolo’ antics that they may not be so inclined to do back at home.


A word originating from the culture of the Baining people of Papua New Guinea, Smith describes this as the unconventional emotion as the “emptiness after a visitor’s depart.” Most people usually feel relief when a visitor departs, but the Baining people are so used to it that they have come up with a way of removing this feeling.

Smith writes,

“Once their guests have left, the Baining fill a bowl with water and leave it overnight to absorb the festering air. The next day, the family rises very early and ceremonially flings the water into the trees, whereupon ordinary life resumes.”

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Mary Kingsley

    Your article was very interesting and I would like to speak with you, if possible!

    1. Jim Lamb

      Mary Kingsley: U look cute & I like to talk to cute girls who speak their minds on interesting things.

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