Following on from our wickedly popular post 25 Handy Words That Don’t Exist In English, we thought it was about time to bring you a few more from across the globe. Despite there being over 250,000 actual words in the English language, there’s still several words from other languages that don’t have an English equivalent.
Here’s 18 of them, from the beautiful to the morbid, from the serious to the whimsical – leave a comment below with your favs ok?
1. Mamihlapinatapei (Yagan indigenous language of Tierra del Fuego) – The wordless, yet meaningful look shared by two people who both desire to initiate something but are both reluctant to start.
2. Toska (Russian) – Is often used to describe the sensation of great spiritual anguish, usually without any cause or condition. Author Vladmir Nabokov expands by adding “ 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 ennui, boredom.”
3. Jayus (Indonesian) - A joke so poorly told and so unfunny that one cannot help but laugh.
4. Iktsuarpok – (Inuit) – To go outside to check if anyone is coming.
5. Litost (Czech) – The closest definition is a state of agony and torment created by the sudden sight of one’s own misery.
6. Kyoikumama (Japanese) – A mother who relentlessly pushes her children toward academic achievement.
7. Tartle (Scottish) – The act of hesitating while introducing someone because you’ve forgotten their name.
8. Prozvonit (Czech) – This word means to call a mobile phone and let it ring once so that the other person will call back, saving the first caller money. In Spanish, the phrase for this is “Dar un toque,” or, “To give a touch.
9. Cafuné (Brazilian Portuguese) – The act of tenderly running one’s fingers through someone’s hair.
10. Torschlusspanik (German) – The fear of diminishing opportunities as one ages – it’s literal translation “gate-closing panic”
11. Tingo (Pascuense Easter Island) – The act of taking objects one desires from the house of a friend by gradually borrowing all of them.
12. 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.
13. Dépaysement (French) – The feeling that comes from not being in one’s home country.
14. Hyggelig (Danish) – A feeling of openness, warmth & friendship often between friends.
15. L’appel du vide (French) – “The call of the void” or an urge to leap from high places.
16. Ya’aburnee (Arabic) – “You bury me,” a declaration of one’s hope that they’ll die before another person because of how difficult it would be to live without them.
17. Duende (Spanish) – Originally used to describe a supernatural entity similar to a forest-fairy or sprite, that brought about a feeling of awe & gave one a unique understanding of the beauty of the world. But early in the 20th century, Spanish playwright Federico García Lorca altered its meaning to become the more straightforward “mysterious power of a work of art to deeply move a person.”
18. Saudade (Portuguese) – The feeling of longing for something or someone who you love and which is lost.