25 words that simply don’t exist in English

In Language by Carole Hallett Mobbs4 Comments

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Wonderfully descriptive words from other languages

This has been doing the rounds for a while and I thought it a great fit for this site as it demonstrates the joy that comes with insight into other cultures and languages.

Approximately 375 million people speak English as their first language, in fact it’s the 3rd most commonly spoken language in the world (after Mandarin Chinese and Spanish). Interestingly enough it’s the number 1 second language used worldwide – which is why the total number of people who speak English, outnumber those of any other.

But whilst it’s the most widely spoken language, there’s still a few areas it falls down on (strange and bizarre punctuation rules aside). We look at 25 words that simply don’t exist in the English langauge (and yet after reading this list, you’ll wish they did!)

  1. Age-otori (Japanese): To look worse after a haircut
  2. Arigata-meiwaku (Japanese): An act someone does for you that you didn’t want to have them do and tried to avoid having them do, but they went ahead anyway, determined to do you a favor, and then things went wrong and caused you a lot of trouble, yet in the end social conventions required you to express gratitude
  3. Backpfeifengesicht (German): A face badly in need of a fist
  4. Bakku-shan (Japanese): A beautiful girl… as long as she’s being viewed from behind
  5. Desenrascanço (Portuguese): “to disentangle” yourself out of a bad situation (To MacGyver it)
  6. Duende (Spanish): a climactic show of spirit in a performance or work of art, which might be fulfilled in flamenco dancing, or bull-fighting, etc.
  7. Forelsket (Norwegian): The euphoria you experience when you are first falling in love
  8. Gigil (pronounced Gheegle; Filipino): The urge to pinch or squeeze something that is unbearably cute
  9. Guanxi (Mandarin): in traditional Chinese society, you would build up good guanxi by giving gifts to people, taking them to dinner, or doing them a favor, but you can also use up your gianxi by asking for a favor to be repaid
  10. Ilunga (Tshiluba, Congo): A person who is ready to forgive any abuse for the first time, to tolerate it a second time, but never a third time
  11. L’esprit de l’escalier (French): usually translated as “staircase wit,” is the act of thinking of a clever comeback when it is too late to deliver it
  12. Litost (Czech): a state of torment created by the sudden sight of one’s own misery
  13. Mamihlapinatapai (Yaghan): A look between two people that suggests an unspoken, shared desire
  14. Manja (Malay): “to pamper”, it describes gooey, childlike and coquettish behavior by women designed to elicit sympathy or pampering by men. “His girlfriend is a damn manja. Hearing her speak can cause diabetes.”
  15. Meraki (pronounced may-rah-kee; Greek): Doing something with soul, creativity, or love. It’s when you put something of yourself into what you’re doing
  16. Nunchi (Korean): the subtle art of listening and gauging another’s mood. In Western culture, nunchi could be described as the concept of emotional intelligence. Knowing what to say or do, or what not to say or do, in a given situation. A socially clumsy person can be described as ‘nunchi eoptta’, meaning “absent of nunchi”
  17. Pena ajena (Mexican Spanish): The embarrassment you feel watching someone else’s humiliation
  18. Pochemuchka (Russian): a person who asks a lot of questions
  19. Schadenfreude (German): the pleasure derived from someone else’s pain
  20. Sgriob (Gaelic): The itchiness that overcomes the upper lip just before taking a sip of whisky
  21. Taarradhin (Arabic): implies a happy solution for everyone, or “I win. You win.” It’s a way of reconciling without anyone losing face. Arabic has no word for “compromise,” in the sense of reaching an arrangement via struggle and disagreement
  22. Tatemae and Honne (Japanese): What you pretend to believe and what you actually believe, respectively
  23. Tingo (Pascuense language of Easter Island): to borrow objects one by one from a neighbor’s house until there is nothing left
  24. Waldeinsamkeit (German): The feeling of being alone in the woods
  25. Yoko meshi (Japanese): literally ‘a meal eaten sideways,’ referring to the peculiar stress induced by speaking a foreign language

via 25 Handy Words That Simply Don’t Exist In English | So Bad So Good. [Link no longer working]

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Comments

  1. Life has become so much more clear with the edition of these words. How I stumbled in a dark world of unnamed feelings and uncharted notions. I am making flash cards of them all right now. Thanks!

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