Untranslatable Words

one of the things i love the most about learning different languages is learning about concepts that do not exist in other language, about words that only exist in their language and cannot be translated.

so i decided to share a couple of my favourite ones with an approximate translation here:

word language approximate meaning
apapacho, apapachar Náhuatl (then adopted by Spanish speakers) to hug (with the soul)
Appel du vide French “call of the void” the impulse one could feel to jump when standing on a very high place, or to do something self destructive in general
Cafuné (Brazilian) Portuguese to caress or tenderly run one’s fingers through a loved one’s hair
Fernweh German feeling longing or “homesickness” for a place one’s never been at
Komorebi - (木漏れ日) Japanese sunlight shinning through leaves
Pochemuchka - (почему́чка) Russian a child who asks many questions
Saudade Portuguese longing for something that’s lost
Toska - (тоска) Russian as Vladimir Nabokov put it: "At its deepest and most painful, it is a sensation of great spiritual anguish, often without any specific cause. At less morbid levels 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."

there are many more words than the ones here, of course, so i’d love to hear your favourites as well~


Just added some tags. (wink)


thanks ^^


My parents would’ve definitely called me a pochemuchka /hj. But really, I love those words fra, thank you for sharing. I only knew appel du vide and komorebi ~ the rest are new to me c:

Here are some of mine:

word language approximate meaning
habseligkeiten german (n.) belongings to which there is emotion attached
l’esprit de l’escalier french (n.) wit of the staircase; thinking of the perfect reply too late
mamihlapinatapai yámana (n.) a strong, shared glance that connects the two speakers in some way that is beyond words (more info)
懐かしい (natsukashii) japanese(adj.) when something evokes a fond memory from your past which does not leave you with a wistful longing but an appreciation of the good times
nedovtipa czech (n.) someone who cannot take a hint
nefelibata portuguese (n.) cloud walker; one who does not abide by the precepts of society, literature or art
noceur french (n.) one who sleeps late (or not at all); someone who stays out late partying
raplapla french (adj.) flat or worn out
sehnsucht german (n.) sickness caused by a yearning desire about facets of life that are unfinished or imperfect, paired with a yearning for ideal alternative experiences
積ん読 (tsundoku) japanese (n.) buying reading materials but letting them pile up in one’s home without reading them
幽玄 (yūgen) japanese (n.) the exact translation depends on the context; it is often referred to as an important concept in Japanese aesthetics suggesting that which is beyond what can be said, but it is not an allusion to another world; it is about this world, this experience.

bro i love these so much! thank you!

honestly so many of these apply to moments or feelings i couldn’t quite describe oml
i’m saving these

also i’m gonna be saying raplapla a lot now kdjbcfhv

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yay, i’m glad bro!

i’m glad it was useful ༉‧₊˚✧ i might come back to post some more

ehehe it’s a fun word to use and i relate to it often sudgsfytdxf

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looking forwards to it, bro <3

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I forgot to add WALAO, it’s Malaysian slang my friends and I use it often and is used to describe the feeling of surprise or disbelief. I learnt it from my friends in Sabah c:

e.g: I’d say “Shana I just won the lottery,” and she would reply “WALAO”. Or sometimes someone just says something so shocking we don’t know what to say and we just “walao”

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oooooh that’s cool!

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Righttt? ^~^

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hoestly expressions of pure emotions are so cool? to learn about in different language?

because feelings sound different in each country and that’s mind blowing

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Right? I love learning about different ones it’s so cool ~ I also noticed that my expressiveness sort of varies depending on which language I speak. For example, our Creole is very expressive and I can describe it as sounding like people are storytelling or acting it’s just very engaging? But I’m so passive in English setyxfaytxde

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i getchuuu
it’s similar with spanish here

and idk a lot of times i feel like English words don’t have the strength some words have in Spanish? idk if you feel the same w English and Creole but i’m hoping you know what i mean kdsbvhfdv

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duydg I getchu fra, yeah it’s like not as expressive as my first language and I find this quite interesting? Some people even use like hand gestures when speaking some languages bc it’s very expressive and I find that cool?

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oml same here bro!
a lot of people “talk with their hands” here and it’s really cool to see what aids we all use to convey different things?

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owo yeah it’s so interesting, I know I joke about disliking social interaction but it’s really interesting to observe the different forms of communication and how it varies

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kdsbvhsfbvf bro i get you 1000%

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In Spanish, we have a word that’s ‘antier’ (or ‘anteayer’) which means ‘the day before yesterday’. And in English, you have to use four words just to say that.



i always get so frustrated bc i want to say anteayer but it’s too long in english ksabchdsv

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One interesting one I just learnt today is:

Ya’aburnee (Arabic)

A declaration of one’s hope that they’ll die before another person because of how unbearable it would be to live without them