94 Obscure Foreign Words with No Direct English Translation

94 Obscure Foreign Words with No Direct English Translation

94 Obscure Foreign Words with No Direct English Translation

Blog127_ForeignWords_MenTalking-199x300 94 Obscure Foreign Words with No Direct English TranslationOne of the beauties of spoken language is that it allows us to express our complex thoughts and emotions in ways that were not possible or feasible with just sounds or gestures. But have you ever experienced the frustration of having some idea or feeling inside you for which you just couldn’t think of the right word and that you were struggling to efficiently describe? It’s entirely possible that the word for which you were looking doesn’t actually exist in your native language but that some foreign words might be able to help you out.

Blog127_ForeignWords_GirlsTalking-300x200 94 Obscure Foreign Words with No Direct English TranslationIn today’s globalizing society, the exchange of words among different languages and the ability to mix multiple languages into a single conversation is one of the most beautiful things. This post explores some of the obscure words that different languages have—words for concepts that you may never have thought existed. These words and phrases range the whole gamut of emotions, from silly and frivolous to euphoric to melancholic and everything in between. Having exposure to these words can help us to better express ourselves, expand our world view and our way of thinking, and better connect with one another across geographic boundaries. Let’s begin our linguistic journey!

Icelandic

Tima: Not being ready to spend time or money on something despite being able to afford it

Affordability is only one criterion for investment, after all. It has to be worthwhile! 

Gaelic

Blog127_ForeignWords_Whiskey-300x226 94 Obscure Foreign Words with No Direct English Translation
Sgriob: Gaelic for itchiness of the upper lip just before taking a sip of whiskey

Of course there is a word for this in Gaelic!

Scottish 

Tartled: Describing the situation in which you’re talking to someone to whom you’ve previously been introduced but you can’t remember their name

This situation might be frustrating, but at least now you have a name for it.

Welsh

Blog127_Foreign-Words_FakeSmile-200x300 94 Obscure Foreign Words with No Direct English Translation
Glas Wãan: Welsh for an insincere or mocking smile

Glas Wãan: An insincere or mocking smile

This phrase literally translates to “blue smile”

Portuguese

Saudade: The longing for something or someone you love that might never return

Here’s something to which helpless romantics everywhere can relate.

Cafuné (Brazilian Portuguese): Tenderly running your fingers through someone’s hair

What a nice feeling this is!

Spanish

Blog127_ForeignWords_Sobremesa-200x300 94 Obscure Foreign Words with No Direct English Translation
Sobremesa: The time after eating a meal when the food is gone but the conversation is still going on at the table

Sobremesa: The time after eating a meal when the food is gone but the conversation is still going on at the table

People often say that good food and good friends are all you need for a happy life, and sobremesa captures that sentiment. Nothing better than a good conversation with people you love over (and after) a shared meal.

Estrenar: To wear or use something for the first time

This could be applied to anything, from clothes, to food, to cars, to games and toys. It is a word that encourages us to keep trying new things.

Tuerto: A man with only one eye

This word loosely translates to “the one-eyed.” Oh my!

Duende: A work of art’s power to move a person

If you’ve ever looked at a painting in a museum and been in deep awe or walked out of a cinema bawling your eyes out, you might be experiencing duende. Art is incredible that way. Traditionally, the term is associated with flamenco, but can be applied to all forms of art. Another fun fact: in Spanish and Latin American mythology, the Duende is a goblin- or elf-like creature who makes sure children behave—similar to the boogeyman.

Cotisuelto: Someone who wears their shirt tail outside of their pants

Apparently, this is the trend among Millennials!

Madrugada: The time of day between late night (after midnight) and sunrise

How many of you are awake during madrugada? Yeah, me too.

Blog127_ForeignWords_Sandwich-300x200 94 Obscure Foreign Words with No Direct English Translation
Pålegg: Norwegian nything that would go in a sandwich

Norwegian

Forelsket: The euphoria experienced when you begin to fall in love

Arguably one of the best feelings there is.

Pålegg: Anything that would go in a sandwich

From the fillings to the condiments to anything in between—no pun intended.

Utepils: To sit outside on a sunny day enjoying a beer

Hope you get to enjoy some utepils this summer!

Swedish

Blog127_ForeignWords_Moonlight-240x300 94 Obscure Foreign Words with No Direct English Translation
Mångata: Swedish for the glimmering, road-like reflection that the moon creates on the water

Mångata: The glimmering, road-like reflection that the moon creates on the water

This might be one of my favorite things to look at.

Gökotta: To wake up early in the morning in order to go outside and hear the birds sing

They certainly do produce a sweet song, and oftentimes it is worth getting up early to hear it.

French

Blog127_ForeignWords_Laughter-200x300 94 Obscure Foreign Words with No Direct English Translation
Rire dans sa barbe: French for laughing quietly while thinking about something that happened in the past

Rire dans sa barbe: To laugh quietly while thinking about something that happened in the past

I do this all the time, except my laughs are anything but quiet!

S’encoubler: Losing balance or falling because you got tangled in something

Be careful!

Dutch

Blog127_ForeignWords_Hike-300x200 94 Obscure Foreign Words with No Direct English Translation
Uitwaaien: Dutch for going for a walk or to the countryside to clear one’s mind

Uitwaaien: Going for a walk or to the countryside to clear one’s mind

This is one of the best self-care practices

German

Wehmut: The courage in feeling pain

“Weh” means pain and “mut” means courage. This word illustrates that it takes courage to truly feel and experience all of our emotions, even the not so pleasant ones.

Sinneswandel: The slow transition of our senses

Do you ever experience a change in what you’re feeling but you’re not exactly clear when or how this change happened? This word might help you in expressing this gradual transition.

Liebenswürdig: Worthy of love

We may not always feel this way, but this is a word that describes all of us. No matter who we are, where we’re from, what we’ve done, or what our life circumstances are, all of us are liebenswürdig.

Blog127_ForeignWords_Woods-300x200 94 Obscure Foreign Words with No Direct English Translation
Waldeinsamkeit: German for the feeling of solitude and connectedness to nature when alone in the woods

Waldeinsamkeit: The feeling of solitude and connectedness to nature when alone in the woods

If you haven’t experienced Waldeinsamkeit in some time, we recommend taking a trek to the woods or some other outdoor secluded area and reconnecting with yourself and with nature.

Schadenfreude: Finding happiness or enjoyment in the troubles or pain of other people

This word is made up of “schaden,” which means damage or pity, and “freude,” which means pleasure or joy—something all of us have likely experienced at one point or another. We’re human, after all.

Fernweh: Homesickness for a place you’ve never been to

This is a common feeling among the wanderers of the world, especially during quarantine. Konversai can help you out if you’re experiencing a sense of fernweh.

Treppenwitz: The moment of thinking of the perfect comeback long after the chance to use it has passed

How frustrating is that feeling? Better keep that comeback in mind for next time!

Frühjahrsmüdigkeit: A depression or lethargy at the beginning of spring

Springtime is usually associated with happiness and new bursts of energy, but seasonal affect disorder is real and can happen no matter the season. This word is a combination of “Früjahr,” which means springtime, and “Müdigkeit,” which means tiredness.

Blog127_ForeignWords_BigSmile-300x200 94 Obscure Foreign Words with No Direct English Translation
Honigkuchenpferd: German for a really big grin

Honigkuchenpferd: A really big grin

This word literally translates to “a horse-shaped honey cake.” Whatever’s giving you that Honigkuchenpferd, hang onto it!

Kummerspeck: Weight gained from emotional overeating

This word literally translates to “grief bacon.” Most of us have probably experienced Kummerspeck at one point or another.

Spesenritter: Someone who shows off by paying a bill on their company’s expense

This word literally means “expense knight.”

Schattenfreude: Happiness at being in the shade

Not to be confused with Schadenfreude, many of us probably experience Schattenfreude on those extra sunny days.

Blog127_ForeignWords_Driving-300x200 94 Obscure Foreign Words with No Direct English Translation
Fahrvergnügen: German for the love of driving

Fahrvergnügen: The love of driving

Time to get behind the wheel!

Schilderwald: A road crowded with so many street signs that you get lost

Kind of defeats the point of having street signs, don’t you think?

Schlimbesserung: A so-called improvement that actually makes things worse

Should have just left it alone.

Torschlusspanik: Fear of losing opportunities because of aging

Literally “fear of a closed door,” Torschlusspanik is most often used in the context of women who want to have kids.

Italian

Blog127_ForeignWords_Crying-300x200 94 Obscure Foreign Words with No Direct English Translation
Commuovere: Italian for a heartwarming story that moved you to tears

Commuovere: A heartwarming story that moved you to tears

I’m not one to cry during movies, but the movie Lion was a commuovere for me.

Slampadato: Addicted to the UV glow of tanning salons

Woah! How much more random can it get?

Cavoli Riscaldati: The result of attempting to revive an unworkable relationship

This phrase literally translates to reheated cabbage. Sounds about right.

Caluccino: The stain left on a table from a glass of cold water

The reason using a coaster is always a good idea!

Fare la scarpetta: To mop the sauce or whatever is on your plate with a piece of bread

Leave it to the Italians and their delicious food to come up with a word for this action.

Danish

Blog127_ForeignWords_Fireplace-240x300 94 Obscure Foreign Words with No Direct English Translation
Hygge: Danish for the feeling of sitting around a fire in the winter with loved ones

Hygge: The feeling of sitting around a fire in the winter with loved ones

There are few things that feel better than this. Hygge is an important aspect of Danish culture. In a fast-paced world in which so many of us are overly focused on our work, the Danes haven’t forgotten the value of spending quality time with loved ones, and that value is integrated into their everyday lives.

Arbajdsglæde: The feeling of happiness from a satisfying job

Isn’t this the dream? And I’m happy to say I experience this when writing blog posts for Konversai!

Finnish

Lieko: A trunk of a tree that has submerged to the bottom of the lake

That poor tree!

Estonian

Leilviskaja: The person who makes steam in a sauna by throwing water on hot rocks

Thank you, leilviskaja!

Lithuania

Blog127_ForeignWords_PublicTransportation-225x300 94 Obscure Foreign Words with No Direct English Translation
Kaapshljmurslis: Lithuanian for being cramped in public transportation during rush hour

Kaapshljmurslis: Being cramped in public transportation during rush hour

One silver lining to quarantine is not having to experience kaapshljmurslis.

Czech

Vybafnout: To jump out and say “boo!”

The worst nightmare of someone who startles easily, like me!

Litost: A state of torment created by the sudden realization of one’s misery

Czech author Milan Kundera wrote about this feeling. If you are going through litost, you’re not alone. Talk to someone. You will get through it and come out stronger.

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Prozvonit: Czech for calling a mobile phone and having it ring once so that the other person can call you back so that you don’t have to spend any money on minutes

Prozvonit: To call a mobile phone and have it ring once so that the other person can call you back so that you don’t have to spend any money on minutes

Time to upgrade your phone plan if you’re doing this too much.

Hungarian 

Házisárkány: A nagging, restless spouse

This term literally means “indoor dragon.”

Slovenian

Blog127_ForeignWords_Rain-240x300 94 Obscure Foreign Words with No Direct English Translation
Vedriti: Slovenian for sheltering from the rain

Vedriti: To shelter from the rain

This is useful. Getting stuck in the rain isn’t the most pleasant.

Serbian

Merak: A feeling of bliss that comes from the simple pleasures in life

It would do us all good to greater appreciate life’s simple pleasures.

Greek

Psithurism: The sound of leaves rustling in the wind

Such a nice sound!

Buli

Pelinti: The noise and face you make when you bite into a piece of food that’s too hot

This word literally means “to move hot food around in your mouth.”

Bantu

Bilita Mpash: An amazing dream

Not just a good dream, but an amazing dream, or the opposite of a nightmare. A bilita mpash would make waking up from a good night’s sleep even harder!

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Hanyauku: Rukwangali for walking on tiptoes across warm sand

Rukwangali

Hanyauku: Walking on tiptoes across warm sand

Mmm, that feels so good!

Tshiluba 

Ilunga: A person who will forgive any abuse the first time, tolerate it a second time, but never a third time

Three strikes, and you’re out.

Tsonga

Rhwe: To sleep on the floor without a mat while drunk and naked

Try not to get yourself in this situation if you can help it.

Blog127_ForeignWords_HandRaising-200x300 94 Obscure Foreign Words with No Direct English Translation
Pochemuchka: Russian for a person who asks too many questions

Russian

Razbliuto: The feeling a person has for someone he or she once loved

What more can one say about this word? If you’ve ever had this feeling, now you have a word for it.

Pochemuchka: A person who asks too many questions

And exactly the kind of person we want on Konversai! 

Georgian

Shemomedjamo: Eating beyond when you’re full because the food is just so good

This translates to “I accidentally ate the whole thing.” Banana bread does this for me.

Yiddish

Luftmensch: An impractical dreamer with no business sense

Let’s face it—we need some Luftmenschen in this world. They definitely keep things interesting.

Blog127_ForeignWords_Cheerleaders-300x240 94 Obscure Foreign Words with No Direct English Translation
Fargin: Yiddish for to wholeheartedly appreciate the success of others

Fargin: To wholeheartedly appreciate the success of others

Quite the opposite of the German Schadenfreude above, and something for which we should all strive. There is enough success to go around!

Arabic

Ya’aburnee: A declaration of someone’s hope that they’ll die before another person because it would be unbearable to live without them

Winnie the Pooh expressed ya’aburnee best when he said, “If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day so I never have to live without you.” Because that would be unBEARable.

Blog127_ForeignWords_Cold-300x214 94 Obscure Foreign Words with No Direct English Translation
Zhaghzhagh: Persian for chattering of teeth from cold or from rage

Persian

Zhaghzhagh: Chattering of teeth from cold or from rage

Ever spent a winter in Alaska? Chances are you’ll experience some zhaghzhagh.

Tulu

Karelu: A mark left on the skin by wearing something tight

Might want to go for something looser next time.

Korean

Han: A collective feeling of oppression or isolation

In 2011, the LA Times described han as “as amorphous a notion as love or hate: intensely personal, yet carried around collectively, a national torch, a badge of suffering tempered by a sense of resiliency.”

Won: Reluctance to let go of an illusion

Because sometimes illusion is more pleasant than reality.

Thai 

Greng-Jai: The feeling you get when you don’t want someone to do something for you because you think it would be inconvenient for them

Surely a valid concern.

Blog127_ForeignWords_Banana-300x200 94 Obscure Foreign Words with No Direct English Translation
Pisan Zapra: Malay for the time needed to eat a banana

Malay

Pisan Zapra: The time needed to eat a banana

Because banana eating deserves utmost respect!

Indonesian 

Mencolek: Tapping someone on the opposite shoulder from behind in order to fool them

There is a word for what those tricksters do.

Jayus: A joke so bad one can’t help but laugh

This word reminds me of the old kids’ show Noddy, in which there was a talking lobster who was full of jayus.

Tagalog

Kilig: The feeling of butterflies in your stomach, usually when something romantic takes place

Who doesn’t love those butterflies?

Layogenic: Something that looks nice from far away but not up close

Ouch! That’s gotta hurt.

Blog127_ForeignWords_Hamster-300x199 94 Obscure Foreign Words with No Direct English Translation
Gigil: Tagalog for the urge to pinch or squeeze something irresistibly cute

Gigil: The urge to pinch or squeeze something irresistibly cute

Like a baby or a puppy or a hamster!

Tampo: Withdrawing affection from another person when one’s feelings have been hurt

Sometimes tampo is easier than the potential of getting hurt again.

Japanese

Bakku-Shan: A woman who’s beautiful from the back but not from the front

Similar to the Tagalog layogenic above.

Yūgen: A mysterious sense of the beauty of the universe and the beauty of human suffering

This word reflects an important concept in Japanese culture—the fact that there is beauty in all emotions. This is similar to the German Wehmut above.

Blog127_ForeignWords_Books-234x300 94 Obscure Foreign Words with No Direct English Translation
Tsundoku: Japanese for leaving a new book unread and letting it pile up with other unread books

Tsundoku: Leaving a new book unread and letting it pile up with other unread books

Guilty! Many other bibliophiles are also probably guilty of this. There are just too many good books and not enough time!

Shouganai: The idea that something can’t be helped, so no need to worry

This is of course easier said than done, but it’s important to try to remember that worrying doesn’t take away the bad—only the good.

Aware: The bittersweetness of a brief moment of transcendent beauty

This word captures the impermanence of all things and the importance of appreciating them while they do last.

Boketto: The act of staring vacantly into the distance

Something we all do from time to time!

Koi No Yokan: The sense upon first meeting someone that you two are going to fall in love

Again, one of the best feelings there is!

Wabi-Sabi: Finding beauty in imperfections

A similar concept to yūgen above. Nothing in this world is perfect, but even that in itself is beautiful.

Blog127_ForeignWords_Trees-300x200 94 Obscure Foreign Words with No Direct English Translation
Komorebi: Japanese for the interplay between light and leaves when sunlight shines through the trees

Komorebi: The interplay between light and leaves when sunlight shines through the trees

Such a serene and beautiful sight, and makes for great photography!

Age-Otori: To look worse after a haircut

Well, at least hair grows back.

Ikigai: A reason to wake up in the morning; a reason to live

This is a favorite of our amazing CEO & Founder, Sushma Sharma.

Yoko Meshi: The stress induced by speaking a foreign language

How fitting for this post.

Samoan

Faamiti: To make a squeaking sound by sucking the air past the lips to get the attention of a dog or a child

Because sometimes they just don’t listen!

Inuit

Iktsuarpork: Frustration from waiting for someone to show up

Being fashionably late may not be worth it.

Hawaiian

Blog127_ForeignWords_HeadScratching-300x200 94 Obscure Foreign Words with No Direct English Translation
Pana Po’o: Hawaiian for scratching your head in order to remember something

Pana Po’o: To scratch your head in order to remember something

Yes, there actually is a word for this gesture.

Ulwa

Yuptuka: The phantom sensation of something crawling on your skin

That’s got to be annoying.

Pascuense

Tingo: Slowly stealing your neighbor’s things by borrowing them and not returning them until you’ve built up a collection of things that aren’t yours

Definitely not something we recommend, but who knew there was a word for it?

Blog127_ForeignWords_CoupleOnWater-200x300 94 Obscure Foreign Words with No Direct English Translation
Mamihlapinatapei: Yágan for a look shared between two people who both want something but are both reluctant to start

Yágan

Mamihlapinatapei: A look shared between two people who both want something but are both reluctant to start

Might as well just make the first move!

What are your favorite words on this list? Which ones are we missing? If you want to learn or a language or learn more about other cultures from people who have lived them day in and day out, you ought to be on Konversai. Konversai is a global online marketplace connecting knowledge providers and knowledge seekers on any topic of interest through live video conversations. What distinguishes Konversai from similar platforms is the human interaction element. In addition to being able to get bespoke knowledge on exactly what you’re looking to learn on a particular topic, you can also form meaningful and authentic connections that have the potential to enrich your life. All users are encouraged to be both knowledge providers and knowledge seekers on any and as many topics as they wish. As a knowledge provider, you can charge as much as you want for your sessions, and you don’t have to be an expert—whatever knowledge, skills, or experiences you possess have value on Konversai and may be exactly what someone else is looking for. Whether you’re on Konversai as a knowledge provider or knowledge seeker, you are sure to have a transformational experience. Get in on the fun and join Konversai today!

 

By Pavita Singh

 

Sources:

  1. Argane, Hiba. Lost In Translation: 30 Words With No English Equivalent.
  2. Demain, Bill; Olutski, Romy; Sweetland Edwards, Haley; Conradt, Stacy. (2020). 51 Wonderful Words With No English Equivalent. Mental Floss.
  3. (2017). 23 Fascinating Words With No Direct English Translations.
  4. 13 Beautiful Words With No English Translation. EF: Education First.
  5. Paras, Lisette. (2016). 30 Foreign Words With No English Equivalent. Backpacker Travel.
  6. Reisenauer, Andrea. (2016). 20 of the World’s Most Beautiful Untranslatable Words. Rocket Languages
  7. Widrich, Leo. (2020). 10 German Words that Don’t Exist in English that Perfectly Describe Human Emotion. elephant journal.

Williams, Mark. (2014).

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