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11 Untranslatable Words From Other Cultures

Jonny Miller

"Words are but symbols for the relations of things to one another and to us; nowhere do they touch upon the absolute truth."
- Friedrich Nietzsche

Hope you enjoy these 11 untranslatable, wonderful and slightly elusive, words. Please do let us know if there are any other words that you think belong in this list...

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    • Jonny Miller

      Thanks so much Alessandra - we're so happy that the words seemed to resonate ;)

    • Jonny Miller

      So nice to see and love that the 11 words really seemed to resonate with people - we've had so many fascinating untranslatable suggestions...

  • Jamie Watts

    it think "prescheatcha" can be added to this list. Just sayin.

  • David Zimmerman

    7) Jayus. My friends used to play a game in college where if someone made a joke that was so bad, everyone around would stand in silence for 30 seconds. Makes for a very awkward scenario, but everyone laughs about it after!

    • Ella-Frances Sanders

      The idea of enforced awkward silences is an interesting one...

  • Derek Farren

    Just a thought but would "depaysement" number 9 not be translated into "homesickness"????

    • Ella-Frances Sanders

      Hi Derek! You would think so (I originally did too), but dépaysement is mostly used to describe a very positive feeling that people are explicitly looking for, and especially when travelling to a foreign country.

  • BuffMedb

    SAUDADE: The famous saudade of the Portuguese is a vague and constant desire for something that does not and probably cannot exist, for something other than the present, a turning towards the past or towards the future; not an active discontent or poignant sadness but an indolent dreaming wistfulness. ~ In Portugal of 1912, A. F. G. Bell

  • Kris Giere

    This is a very fun list. I also love your reference to grief bacon below. I am going to have to use that one somehow.

    • Jonny Miller

      Haha yes I think I'm feeling a little 'Grief Bacon' myself after a huge breakfast this morning ;)

    • Jonny Miller

      Thanks Alessandra, that post sparked the idea for these illustrations ;) A couple of others that didn't make the final cut were: "Mencolek" (Indonesian) - for that old trick where you tap someone lightly on the opposite shoulder from behind to fool them... and also "Kummerspeck" (German) which refers to excess weight gained from emotional overeating... literally, grief bacon ;)

  • Adele Peters

    I love these illustrations. My favorite word: Iktsuarpok.

    • Ella-Frances Sanders

      Thank you Adele, so pleased that you liked them! I think 'Iktsuarpok' is one of my favourites too, and I've definitely been guilty of it on more than one occasion ;)