Beautiful Untranslatable Words from Around the World

Beautiful Untranslatable Words from Around the World

Celebrated Italian director Federico Fellini once said, “a different language is a different vision of life.” This proves to be very true when considering the whole host of beautiful untranslatable words that can be found in other languages. Sometimes, these describe something inherently unique to the culture of those who speak the language.

In recent years, perhaps intrigued as to why Scandinavian nations continue to top the list of the happiest countries on earth, we’ve been obsessed with words such as hygge from Denmark and Sweden’s lagom. As such, these terms have been repackaged in countless products and books for us to consume. It’s doubtful that the over-commercialisation of such terms truly does them justice or represents how natives actually use them. With no direct translation into English and being bound in sentiment and feeling, interpretations can indeed be challenging. However, below, you’ll find our best attempt at understanding these beautiful and fascinating words from other languages.

Beautiful Untranslatable Words from Around the World

Untranslatable German Words

  • (n) Fernweh – a longing for far away places, homesickness for a place you’ve never been to
  • (n) Fingerspitzengefühl – literally means ‘fingertip feeling’ and is used to describe those who are intuitive about different situations and conversations and can react with tact and sensitivity
  • (n) Sehnsucht – an intense internal longing or yearning for someone or something
  • (n) Kopfkino – literally means ‘head cinema’ or in other words, the act of playing out scenes in your head
  • (n) Geborgenheit – a mix of cosiness, security and warmth
  • (n) Hüftgold – literally means ‘hip gold’, or love handles
  • (n) Glückspilz – literally means lucky mushroom, or rather, describes a lucky person
  • (n) Waldeinsamkeit – the feeling of being alone in the woods

Untranslatable French Words

  • (n) Retrouvailles – the happiness of a reunion with someone special after a long time
  • (v) Être à l’ouest – literally, to be in the west, or in other words, to be spaced out or not really with it
  • (n) Dépaysement – the feeling (good or bad) of not feeling at home in a foreign place

Untranslatable Spanish Words

  • (n) Friolero – a person who is particularly sensitive to the cold
  • (n) Sobremesa – the time spent chatting around the table after a meal

Untranslatable Japanese Words

  • (n) Komorebi – the sunlight which filters through the leaves of trees
  • (n) Tsundoku  – leaving a book unread after it’s bought
  • (n) Wabi-sabi – much like hygge, it’s difficult to summarise easily, but is often explained as acceptance of and finding beauty in the imperfect and incomplete
  • (n) Boketto – gazing vacantly into the distance without thinking about anything

Untranslatable Italian Words

  • (n) Culaccino – the wet ring mark left from a glass on a table
  • (v) Meriggiare – to rest in the shade at noon
  • (n) Spaghettata – to eat a pasta meal with friends

Untranslatable Norwegian Words

  • (n) Utepils – a beer you drink outside
  • (n) Pålegg – anything that goes in a sandwich or is used as a topping on bread
  • (adj) Koselig – similar to hygge, hard to define exactly, but often described as cosy or nice

Untranslatable Swedish Words

  • (n) Mångata – the path moonlight makes when reflecting on water
  • (n) Lagom – another difficult word to describe, lagom is often explained as not having too little or too much of something, just the right amount
  • (n) + (v) Fika – most basically, fika is a coffee break. But really, it’s much more than that. It’s an important time to pause, slow down and enjoy good coffee either alone, or with colleagues or friends
  • (n) Badkruka – someone who refuses to enter a body of water to swim
  • (n) Tretår  – a second refill of a drink, or a ‘threefill’
  • (n) Gökotta – waking up early in the morning in order to go outside and hear the first birds sing
  • (n) Kura skymning – sitting quietly and pondering at dusk

Untranslatable Danish Words

  • (n) Hygge – difficult to define, but often described as cosiness and enjoying the small things in life which create a feeling of contentment or well-being
  • (n) Forelsket – a word for the euphoric feeling when you first start falling in love with someone

More lifestyle inspiration from around the world:

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