105 Words from 21 Languages That You Can’t Say in English
105 Words from 21 Languages That You Can’t Say in English

105 Words from 21 Languages That You Can’t Say in English

Here are some really beautiful words from foreign languages. Instead of long phrases, just one word that cannot be translated. Write in the comments what your favorite untranslatable word is!

Each foreign language has certain words that defy direct translation into English, carrying unique cultural nuances. Different languages are in some ways different ways of looking at the world. For instance, the Danish word “Hygge” encapsulates a feeling of cozy contentment and well-being through enjoying the simple things in life. Similarly, the German word “Waldeinsamkeit” describes the feeling of being alone in the woods, a sense of peace, and a connection to nature. On the other hand, the Japanese word “Komorebi” poetically refers to the sunlight that filters through the leaves of trees. These untranslatable words offer intriguing glimpses into different cultures, enriching our understanding of the world.

Chinese Untranslatable Words

  1. 面子 (miànzi): This Chinese word means A complex concept of reputation, face, prestige, and respect.
  2. 闷骚 (mènsāo): Describes someone who appears reserved but has a wild side.
  3. 左右为难 (zuǒyòuwéinán): A dilemma, literally means being flanked on both right and left.
  4. 热闹 (rènào): A lively atmosphere filled with fun, excitement, and hustle-bustle.
  5. 人情 (rénqíng): Human emotions and relationships, often used in the context of social obligations and favors.

Sanskrit Untranslatable Words

  1. Anitya (अनित्य): Represents the impermanence or the transitory nature of all material creations.
  2. Dharma (धर्म): A concept denoting duty, righteousness, religion, and every kind of righteous conduct.
  3. Ahimsa (अहिंसा): The principle of non-violence towards all living things.
  4. Moksha (मोक्ष): The liberation from the cycle of death and rebirth; spiritual enlightenment.
  5. Samsara (संसार): The cycle of death and rebirth; the worldly cycle of life.

Japanese Untranslatable Words

  1. しょうがない (Shouganai): This phrase signifies an acceptance of circumstances beyond one’s control, often implying a sense of resignation.
  2. もののあわれ (Mono no aware): A term describing a sensitivity or empathy towards the ephemeral or fleeting nature of beauty, particularly as it pertains to the natural world.
  3. 過労死 (Karōshi): Translating as “death by overwork,” this word speaks to the severe societal pressures and work culture in Japan.
  4. 木漏れ日 (Komorebi): A term for the sunlight that filters through the leaves of trees.
  5. 積ん読 (Tsundoku): This Japanese word describes the act of buying books and letting them pile up unread.

Inuit Untranslatable Words

  1. Qarrtsiluni (ᖃᕐᕐᓯᓗᓂ): This term describes the act of sitting together in the darkness, waiting for something to burst.
  2. Umayuqaqtuq (ᐅᒫᔭᖅᑐᖅ): The act of pretending to sleep while being awake, often done by children.
  3. Pijariiqpugu (ᐱᔭᕆᖅᐸᒍ): This word signifies to honor and respect someone by not asking too many personal questions.
  4. Tusaatsiarunnanngittualuujunga (ᑐᓵᑦᓯᐊᕈᓂᖓᑦᑕᓗᐅᔪᖓ): This long word indicates the feeling of not wanting to go outside because of the weather. So, you stay inside and enjoy the warmth and comfort of being indoors.
  5. Qalunaat (ᖃᓗᓐᓂᑦ): This term refers to non-Inuit people, often specifically Europeans or Americans.

Persian Untranslatable Words

  1. آبی (Aabi): A color deeper than blue and lighter than black symbolizing depth, infinity, and the cosmos.
  2. تفرج (Tafrugh): The act of going for a leisurely walk or taking a stroll for no particular reason, often aimlessly.
  3. ناز (Naz): A cute or coquettish behavior often displayed to get attention or pampering.
  4. دلبستگی (Delbastegi): A profound emotional attachment or deep affection for someone, going beyond love.
  5. جوانمردی (Javanmardi): Translating to ‘young manliness’, it signifies a code of chivalrous behavior, including bravery, generosity, and honor.

Russian Untranslatable Words

  1. Тоска (Toska): A word that goes beyond sadness or depression, signifying a deep spiritual anguish. Russian author Vladimir Nabokov describes it as a sensation of great spiritual anguish, often without any specific cause.
  2. Почемучка (Pochemuchka): This Russian word refers to someone who asks a lot of questions. In English, we might call them curious.
  3. Самиздат (Samizdat): Meaning “self-published,” this term was used in the Soviet era to refer to the underground publication of banned literature.
  4. Просто (Prosto): A word that signifies simplicity, straightforwardness, or doing something just because with no further connotations or implications.
  5. Запой (Zapoy): This term refers to a two or more-day binge of heavy drinking, indicative of a serious social issue in Russia.

Swahili Untranslatable Words

  1. Harambee: This term is used to describe a community self-help event, fund-raiser or a spirit of togetherness, but its direct application and meaning are deeply rooted in a cultural context that doesn’t directly translate.
  2. Pole: It translates to “sorry” but is used in a broader context than its English counterpart. You’d say it to empathize with someone’s minor inconvenience or major life events.
  3. Sawa: While it translates to “equal”, it’s used as a response to express “okay”, “fine”, or “all right”. The word encapsulates a sense of harmony and balance that can’t be directly translated into English.
  4. Jumbo: This is often a greeting word, somewhat like hello, but it means “respect” or “high esteem” and encapsulates a sentiment of warm and friendly greeting that isn’t captured by “hello”.
  5. Ujamaa: This word embodies the concept of collective economics; to build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses together. The sense of communal effort and shared wealth is difficult to translate succinctly into English.

Arabic Untranslatable Words

  1. حب (Habib): While it directly translates to “love,” the term encompasses a deeper, more profound affection in Arabic than its English equivalent.
  2. إن شاء الله (Inshallah): Commonly used across the Arab world, this phrase means “If God wills it” but it carries a deeper sense of uncertainty and faith, and is used in various contexts that would be hard to interpret in English.
  3. صبر (Sabr): This term is often translated as “patience,” but it refers to spiritual patience that involves enduring hardship without complaint, which is more nuanced than the English understanding of patience.
  4. تربية (Tarbiyah): This word means “to raise or educate” but it implies an entire system of moral, ethical, spiritual, and physical growth – a concept that is not directly translated into a single English word.
  5. جود (Joud): Translated as “generosity”, in Arabic culture it signifies a quality that is much more than just giving. It’s a general spirit of benevolence and a positive disposition to give out of what’s dearest to one’s heart.

Nahuatl Untranslatable Words

  1. Nahuiollin: This Nahuatl term is often used to express the concept of ‘movement’, but it also embodies the constant flow and change of life, representing a natural order in the universe that doesn’t have an exact English equivalent.
  2. Huehuetl: Translated as ‘drum’, this term also encapsulates the cultural and spiritual significance of music in indigenous Mesoamerican societies, something that is lost in English translation.
  3. Tlazohtla: While this word usually translates to ‘love’, it embodies a deeper sense of respect, appreciation, and care for another person or the universe, which is not fully reflected in the English word ‘love’.
  4. Tetl: Tetl translates to “rock”, but it signifies more than a mere stone—it represents solidity, stability, and permanence, a sense of rootedness that is not conveyed by the English term.
  5. Chicomostoc: This specific term refers to a place of seven caves and is often used to symbolize the origin of the Nahuatl people. The cultural and historical significance of Chicomostoc cannot be accurately translated into English.

Turkish Untranslatable Words

  1. Hüzün: While this word is often translated as ‘melancholy’, it encapsulates a much deeper and shared sense of societal and spiritual sadness prevalent in Turkish culture, which the English language lacks a direct equivalent for.
  2. Gönül: This term refers to a concept that combines the heart and mind. It’s about the feelings and thoughts one has deep inside their soul.
  3. Yeditepe: Translating to ‘Seven Hills’, this term is used to express the unique geographical and historical identity of Istanbul, which is built on seven hills. The cultural significance of Yeditepe cannot be fully captured in English.
  4. Nazar: Though it’s commonly translated as ‘evil eye’, Nazar in the Turkish context signifies a glance or stare believed to cause harm or bad luck, which goes beyond the common English understanding.
  5. Hayat: Although it directly translates to ‘life’, Hayat in Turkish encompasses not just life, but the whole experience of being and existing, which is much broader than the English term.

Punjabi Untranslatable Words

  1. Jugaad: This colloquial term describes a creative or innovative workaround solution to a problem, often due to limited resources. It implies a sort of frugal innovation and ingenuity, which is hard to capture in a single English word.
  2. Chardi Kala: This phrase is deeply rooted in the Sikh philosophy and is often translated as ‘relentless optimism’ or ‘rising spirits’. It represents a persistent state of joy, enthusiasm, and courage, regardless of life’s circumstances, a concept not succinctly encompassed by English expressions.
  3. Vaar: While it translates to ‘week’, Vaar in Punjabi also represents a symbolic cycle of life, death, and rebirth, a metaphysical concept that English lacks a direct equivalent for.
  4. Kaim: A popular word in contemporary Punjabi culture, ‘Kaim’ signifies the state of being perfect, flawless, or excellent. It’s a cultural expression that English doesn’t have a one-word equivalent.
  5. Bebe: While ‘bebe’ technically translates to ‘grandmother’, it holds a much deeper sentimental and respectful value in Punjabi culture, signifying the matriarch or elderly woman of the household, a concept that is not fully captured with the English term ‘grandmother’.

Khmer Untranslatable Words

  1. Srey Saart: This term literally translates to ‘beautiful girl’, but in Khmer, it carries a heavier connotation, signifying a girl or woman who is not just physically appealing, but also possesses admirable character traits and values, a concept that cannot be translated succinctly into English.
  2. Knyom: While it simply means ‘I’ or ‘me’, Knyom in Khmer is a much more humble and respectful way of referring to oneself, carrying a level of humility and deference not captured in the English pronouns.
  3. Choul Morn: This phrase is used to invite someone to eat, but goes beyond the mere act of eating. It encompasses the warmth, hospitality, and joy of sharing a meal, a sentiment not entirely captured in English.
  4. Bong: Translating to ‘older sibling’, the term ‘bong’ has a broader meaning in Khmer, signifying respect and admiration for an older individual, whether related by blood or not, which English terms like ‘brother’ or ‘sister’ do not fully encapsulate.
  5. Khnhom: This term is a respectful version of ‘I’ used by females in Khmer. It carries a level of feminine politeness and respect not found in English self-referential terms.

Spanish Untranslatable Words

  1. Sobremesa: Translating to ‘over the table’, this term refers to the time spent lingering at the table after a meal, talking and enjoying each other’s company. There is no single word in English that captures this concept.
  2. Empalagar: This verb describes the feeling of becoming sick or overwhelmed from consuming too much of a sweet or rich food. While English can describe the concept, it doesn’t have a single word for it.
  3. Merienda: This term refers to a light meal or snack typically enjoyed in the afternoon or early evening. While ‘snack’ or ‘tea time’ is close, merienda is a unique cultural tradition not entirely captured by English terms.
  4. Friolento/Friolero: These words describe a person who is particularly sensitive to cold temperatures. The English language lacks a specific term for this.
  5. Desvelado: This term refers to the state of being unable to sleep, or staying awake all night. While English can describe this state, it doesn’t encapsulate it in a single word like ‘desvelado’.

Malay Untranslatable Words

  1. Pasrah: This Malay term refers to the act of surrendering or giving up, but it also carries a deeper connotation of surrendering one’s fate to a higher power. There is no single word in English that captures this dual meaning.
  2. Gotong-Royong: This term is used to describe a community coming together to accomplish a task, like cleaning or building something. The concept of communal unity and cooperation is deeply embedded in this term, which English does not have an equivalent for.
  3. Merantau: ‘Merantau’ is the act of leaving one’s hometown to seek knowledge or experience elsewhere. While English might use phrases like ‘going on a journey’ or ‘leaving home’, the cultural significance and emotional depth associated with ‘merantau’ is not captured.
  4. Rasa Sayang: Translating to ‘feeling of love’, this phrase is used to express affection and care in a deeply personal and heartfelt way, which is not fully encapsulated by English words.
  5. Jodoh: This term refers to a predestined life partner, often perceived as chosen by divine intervention. While English has words like ‘soulmate’, ‘jodoh’ conveys a deeper sense of destiny and divine arrangement that isn’t fully captured in English.

Yoruba Untranslatable Words

  1. Alubarika: This Yoruba term is a blessing, signifying grace, divine favor, or God’s blessing on endeavors. The richness of this term isn’t captured fully in English.
  2. Ase: ‘Ase’ or ‘Àṣẹ’ is used to express the power to make things happen and produce change. It is a fundamental concept in the Yoruba’s system of belief, and doesn’t have a direct equivalent in English.
  3. Owanbe: This is a large, grandiose party thrown by Yoruba people. The term describes the lavish, festive nature of these parties, which is not sufficiently expressed in English.
  4. Agidigbo: This term is used to describe a type of Yoruba music played with a traditional instrument of the same name. The cultural significance and unique musical style associated with ‘agidigbo’ can’t be captured in a single English word.
  5. Omoluabi: ‘Omoluabi’ refers to a person of good character in Yoruba culture. It represents qualities like respect, ethical behavior, and integrity. There isn’t an English term that fully encapsulates this broad range of virtues in one word.

Czech Untranslatable Words

  1. Litost: This Czech term refers to a state of torment created by the sudden sight of one’s own misery. It’s a deep, existential form of grief that doesn’t have a precise English equivalent.
  2. Prozvonit: A unique word that refers to the act of calling a mobile phone and letting it ring once so that the other person will call back, saving the first caller money.
  3. Pohoda: ‘Pohoda’ is a state of coziness, tranquility, well-being, and harmony. It’s a comprehensive term that’s more than just comfort or ease, and doesn’t have an exact English equivalent.
  4. Toska: This term describes a feeling of great longing, melancholy, or boredom, and there isn’t a singular English word that expresses the full depth of this feeling.
  5. Večirek: ‘Večirek’ refers to a small, informal gathering or party usually held at home among close friends or relatives. The term implies a cozy, intimate atmosphere that isn’t fully captured by any English word.

Tuvan Untranslatable Words

  1. Chal: ‘Chal’ is a Tuvan term referring to the sensation of sudden enlightenment or the profound understanding of the universe. There is no concise equivalent term in English.
  2. Aldan: This word represents a deep respect and reverence for the natural environment, embodying the Tuvan belief that every element of nature has a spirit. English language doesn’t have a single term encapsulating this concept.
  3. Khoomei: ‘Khoomei’ is a Tuvan word for their traditional style of throat singing. There is no English equivalent that completely captures the musical and cultural intricacies of this term.
  4. Shöödürgü: This term describes the feeling of intense longing for one’s homeland or longing for the steppe. There isn’t a single English word that fully expresses this feeling.
  5. Tündük: ‘Tündük’ is the word for the circular opening at the top of a traditional Tuvan yurt. It’s symbolic of the connection between the earth and the sky, a concept that can’t be concisely translated into English.

German Untranslatable Words

  1. Schadenfreude: A term that refers to the pleasure derived from someone else’s misfortune. The concept exists in English, but there’s no exact equivalent word.
  2. Fernweh: This word captures the feeling of a strong desire to travel or explore distant places, essentially the opposite of homesickness. There’s no exact match in English.
  3. Gemütlichkeit: It denotes a sense of warmth, friendliness, and good cheer. Other aspects include comfort, belonging, social acceptance, and coziness, but none of these English terms capture the full essence of Gemütlichkeit.
  4. Backpfeifengesicht: Literally, this translates to “a face in need of a slap”. English lacks a single term for this concept.
  5. Waldeinsamkeit: This word describes the feeling of being alone in the woods and the peacefulness and contemplation that can accompany it. There is no concise English equivalent term.

Navajo Untranslatable Words

  1. Hózhǫ́ǫ́gi: This Navajo term refers to the process of striving for balance and harmony in all aspects of one’s life. There’s no single English word that encapsulates this concept.
  2. Diyinii: ‘Diyinii’ is a term for divine or holy beings in Navajo cosmology, but it also suggests an intricate connection with nature that isn’t easily translated into English.
  3. Baa hózhǫ́ǫ́go: This phrase means to live in a manner that strives for balance, harmony, beauty, and order. English lacks an equivalent phrase for this holistic way of life.
  4. Tłʼiish: ‘Tłʼiish’ refers to a spontaneous, uncontrolled laugh, typically in response to something unexpected or absurd. There’s no precise English counterpart.
  5. Hózhǫ́ǫ́giináádóó: This term means to be in a state of peace, balance, and harmony with oneself and the world. It encompasses spiritual, physical, and emotional well-being, a concept not succinctly translated into English.

Xhosa Untranslatable Words

  1. Ubuntu: Although it has become known worldwide due to Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu, ‘Ubuntu’ is a complex term that doesn’t have a straightforward translation in English. It conveys the importance of community, often interpreted as ‘I am because we are.’
  2. Sisonke: This Xhosa word has a deep meaning around the concept of togetherness. It translates to ‘we are together,’ reflecting the idea of unity and mutual support in a community.
  3. Qhawe: ‘Qhawe’ represents a hero or a warrior. The depth of the word implies not just a physical fighter but also a person who battles against societal issues, a concept not easily translated into English.
  4. Thembalethu: This word translates to ‘our hope,’ but it is not just about expecting or desiring a particular outcome. It reflects a profound trust in and surrendering to the flow of life.
  5. Umoya: Literally translating to ‘wind’ or ‘air,’ ‘umoya’ also signifies the spirit or essence of a person, an element that English lacks a precise term.

Tibetan Untranslatable Words

  1. Lhakar: ‘Lhakar’, literally translated as ‘White Wednesday’ is a Tibetan word that represents a non-cooperation movement based on moral and cultural values, an idea that doesn’t have a precise English equivalent.
  2. Tsewa: This term covers a vast range of meanings including warmth, affection, and tenderness, especially towards everyone without any discrimination. It’s a holistic concept not succinctly translated into English.
  3. Semkye: ‘Semkye’ implies the act of developing a personal sense of empathy or understanding towards others, a feeling that English doesn’t succinctly encapsulate in a single term.
  4. Yaksay: ‘Yaksay’ refers to a person who is wise and respected, but not in the typical sense of being knowledgeable. Rather, it refers to someone who is spiritually enlightened, a nuance not easily conveyed in English.
  5. Naychi: This term embodies the feeling of deep reverence and appreciation for the spiritual and natural world. The depth of emotion and spirituality encapsulated by ‘naychi’ is not easily translatable into the English language.

Hindi Untranslatable Words

  1. Jugaad: ‘Jugaad’ is a word that signifies a flexible approach to problem-solving, using limited resources in an innovative way to come up with a solution. There is no exact English equivalent for this term.
  2. Dastangoi: ‘Dastangoi’ refers to the ancient art of storytelling, it is more than just a performance, it is an intricately woven narrative that is not easily translated into English.
  3. Junoon: ‘Junoon’ is a passionate madness or an obsession. It conveys a level of passion that goes beyond the English understanding of the term.
  4. Viraha: ‘Viraha’ symbolizes the feeling of longing or separation, often in the context of a loved one. The depth of emotion encapsulated by ‘viraha’ is not easily translatable in the English language.
  5. Samadhan: ‘Samadhan’ is a term that signifies the state of contentment and inner peace. It goes beyond just being satisfied with external circumstances, but rather finding true peace within oneself, something that is not easily conveyed in English. So, many Hindi words hold deep cultural and spiritual meanings that are difficult to translate into English without losing their

Finnish Untranslatable Words

  1. Sisu: ‘Sisu’ is a concept deeply ingrained in Finnish culture, representing the idea of stoic determination, grit, bravery, resilience, and hardiness. It’s more than just perseverance – it’s a form of inner strength that is not easily translated into English.
  2. Kalsarikännit: This word is a humorous term that refers to the act of getting drunk alone at home, in your underwear. This very specific scenario doesn’t have an equivalent term in English.
  3. Löyly: ‘Löyly’ refers to the steam that rises when water is thrown onto hot stones in a sauna. It is more than just steam; it symbolizes the entire sauna experience, a concept not easily captured with a single word in English.
  4. Hyppytyynytyydytys: This funny-sounding word means the satisfaction derived from sitting on a bouncy cushion. The English language lacks a specific word for this simple joy.
  5. Vappu: ‘Vappu’ is a unique Finnish holiday that celebrates the end of winter and the beginning of spring with grand festivities, something that cannot be exactly translated into English as a single term.

Wolof Untranslatable Words

  1. Jamm: ‘Jamm’ is a Wolof word that represents peace, but also encapsulates deeper meanings of tranquility, serenity and harmonious existence, concepts not easily translated into a single English word.
  2. Teranga: ‘Teranga’ is a central cultural concept in Senegalese society, often explained as the hospitality, generosity and mutual respect shown to others. The depth and breadth of its meaning are hard to capture in English.
  3. Yeewu: ‘Yeewu’ refers to the act of self-reflection and introspection, a concept that English lacks a specific term for.
  4. Xeex: ‘Xeex’ stands for the act of debating or arguing, but not in a negative sense. It signifies a healthy discussion intended to reach a consensus, something that doesn’t have an exact equivalent in English.
  5. Gëstu: ‘Gëstu’ is a Wolof term that embodies beauty and elegance, but extends beyond physical attractiveness to include moral and intellectual beauty, a distinction not easily conveyed by any single term in English.

Quechua Untranslatable Words

  1. Sumaq: ‘Sumaq’ is a Quechua term that represents something beautiful or pleasant, but it also encapsulates a deeper appreciation for the beauty and harmony of nature, something not easily translated into a single English word.
  2. Ayni: ‘Ayni’ refers to the Andean principle of reciprocity, a social contract of mutual assistance and respect among community members. The depth and breadth of its meaning are difficult to capture in English.
  3. Ñawi: ‘Ñawi’ means eye, but it also refers to a spiritual insight or perception, a concept that English lacks a specific term for.
  4. Wiñay: ‘Wiñay’ stands for eternity or forever, but not in a temporal sense. It embodies a sense of continuity and permanence, something that doesn’t have an exact equivalent in English.
  5. Sami: ‘Sami’ is a Quechua term that embodies light, energy, and positivity, but extends beyond physical energy to include spiritual purity and positive intentions, distinctions not easily conveyed by any single term in English.

Tamil Untranslatable Words

  1. Anbu: ‘Anbu’ is a Tamil term that signifies a deep, unconditional love, often found in familial or close relationships. This word encompasses a type of affection and care that English cannot easily define in a single term.
  2. Vethalai: ‘Vethalai’ refers to the tradition of offering betel leaves during ceremonies or festive occasions as a gesture of respect and goodwill. This specific cultural practice is difficult to capture with any single English word.
  3. Iravinil: ‘Iravinil’ means ‘in the night,’ but it also captures a sense of calmness and tranquility, a mood and atmosphere that English lacks a specific term for.
  4. Thaaimai: ‘Thaaimai’ stands for motherhood, but it goes beyond the mere fact of being a mother. It includes the emotional bond, sacrifice, and innate nurturing qualities that are hard to convey in English succinctly.
  5. Aasai: ‘Aasai’ is a Tamil term that signifies a passionate desire or intense longing for something or someone. It’s more than mere ‘want’ or ‘desire,’ making it difficult to translate accurately into English.

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