Lost in Translation: Untranslatable Words

atkins-bookshelf-wordsAt the heart of clear communication is diction: choosing the right word. Many times we stumble in a conversation because we cannot find just the right word. We think or say out loud: “I wish there were a word for that.” Of course, the English language is always growing, a magpie that borrows a word from this language or that. But sometimes, foreign language words do not get absorbed into the English language for whatever reason. Bookshelf looks at wonderful, beautiful words from around the globe that express ideas that cannot be translated in a single word in English. Here is a tasty sampling of the global lexical smorgasbord.

Cafune: Brazilian Portuguese; gently running your fingers through the hair of a loved one

Commuovere: Italian; to be moved to tears

Forelsket: Danish; the ineffable euphoria felt when first falling in love

Gurfa: German; cupping your hand in a cold stream

Komorebi: Japanese: sunlight filtering through the leaves of tree; a greenish light

Retrouvailles: French, the joy of seeing someone again after a long time

Saudade: Portuguese; the longing for a loved one that is lost

Tsundoku: Japanese; placing books in a pile because you don’t have time to read them

Waldeinsamkeit: German; time spent peacefully in the woods

Yuanfen: Chinese; a relationship that is fated or destined

Read related posts: There’s a Word for That: Esprit de l’escalier
There’s a Word for That: Jouissance
There’s a Word for That: Abibliophobia
There’s a Word for That: Petrichor
There’s a Word for That: Deipnosophist
There’s a Word for That: Pareidolia

There’s a Word for That: Macroverbumsciolist
There’s a Word for That: Ultracrepidarian
There’s a Word for That: Cacology

For further reading: Lost in Translation by Ella Frances Sanders (2014)


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