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26 Beautifully Untranslatable Words Around the World

26 Beautifully Untranslatable Words Around the World

26 Beautifully Untranslatable Words Around the World

If you’ve invested any time learning a foreign language, you know English doesn’t always do justice to a foreign word or phrase. And sometimes you’ll find the reverse to be true when you are trying to translate something from English to another language. Language is something so richly steeped in culture and history that often the very feelings and essence of a word will lose all context as soon as it’s translated. 

Take the phrase “plead the fifth,” for example. This saying refers to the 5th Amendment from the U.S. Constitution, in other words… the right to remain silent. But when people say they plead the fifth, they are usually trying to avoid talking about something uncomfortable.

Other English words or phrases that don’t always have a direct translation in other languages might be serendipity, hillbilly, or “throw a Hail Mary.”

When you bump into a unique word in another language, take it as an opportunity to learn a little more about the language and culture. You’ll always learn something new! Here are 26 beautifully untranslatable words from around the world.

1. Gökotta

Yes, it’s cool that the Swedes have a word for this. But its more than just an arbitrary word. Gökotta is more of a habit of rising early, listening to birdsong and starting your day well. We all need more of this!

2. Culaccino

A neat word, although it seems less likely to happen in Italy since ice is rarely added to beverages.

3. Dépaysement

This one comes from the Old French word despaisier, meaning to exile.

4. Fargin

Do you rejoice in the wins of others’ or do you burn with envy? Happy people are able to celebrate even when the success is not theirs.

5. Fernweh

Every travel has caught this bug a time or two.

6. Forelsket

Those first few flutters…

7. Friolero

Where are all my frioleros? (probably at the beach)

8. Hanyauku

It’s a type of therapy.

9. Hiraeth

Like homesickness, but can also refer to a longing or nostalgia for things you miss.

10. Hygge

This Danish concept has become virally popular over the past few decades.

11. Iktsuarpok

We’ve all done it!

12. Kilig

A first time date, the anticipation of a proposal…

13. Koi no yokan

Sometimes you just know.

14. Komorebi

This delightful effect needs its own word in English.

15. Kummerspeck

Do you eat your feelings in bacon?

16. Lagon

In other words, not kummerspeck.

17. Mangata

A moonbeam, but specifically on the water.

18. Momijigari

Japan is a wonderful destination for fall color!

19. Pålegg

Ham and swiss, peanut butter and jelly…

20. Saudade

A deep emotional state for something far from you.

21. Seigneur Terraces

Just here for the WiFi.

22. Sobremesa

Meal time in Spain is an event, not something to get through.

23. Tsundoku

What we want to read vs. what we actually have time to read.

24. Uitwaaien

The literal translation is “out blowing.”

25. Waldeinsamkeit

Think of Henry David Thoreau’s Walden: Life in the Woods.

26. Zhaghzhagh

But can you pronounce this while your teeth are chattering?

Shawna Levet

Shawna is passionate about helping travel agents grow their business and expand their knowledge as travel experts. She has been in the travel industry since 2011, helping agents and travelers alike find the best negotiated airfare and travel coverage to meet their needs.

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