The latest on travel, languages and culture by EF Education First

13 Beautiful Words With No English Translation

One of the most beautiful features of languages is that they give us the vocabulary to express ourselves. Gone are the days when we just had to make grunts or attempt to convey our emotions through facial expressions. However, even though the English language is made up of over 750,000 words, sometimes, one word just can’t express what we’re experiencing – here are 13 examples:

1. Waldeinsamkeit (German)

“The feeling of solitude and connectedness to nature when being alone in the woods.”

We often get so caught up in our own lives that the stress and responsibilities overwhelm us. That’s when we need to experience Waldeinsamkeit: Go for hikes or walks in the woods to help ourselves get centered. Taking time for yourself is never a bad thing – especially when you’re surrounded by nature.

2. Wabi-Sabi (Japanese)

“Finding beauty in imperfections.”

There is no such thing as perfect. Nothing. (Well, sometimes, a brunch that includes Nutella comes close.) But that’s the beauty of it! Our flaws and imperfections are what make us each unique, special, and beautiful. Listen to the Japanese and embrace all those little flaws.

3. Saudade (Portuguese)

“The feeling of longing for an absent something or someone that you love but might never return.”

Call me a hopeless romantic, but I love this word. There’s nostalgia, melancholy, love, happiness, sadness, hope, emptiness and desire – all the feelings of a lifetime in one word.

4. 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.”

We could get all dramatic with Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, or we could quote the great Winnie the Pooh who basically explained Ya’aburnee this way: “If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day so I never have to live without you.”

5. 缘分 or yuánfèn (Mandarin)

“The fate between two people.”

Yuánfèn describes the view that a relationship is predetermined or destined, and it tends to be used a lot as a proverb: 有緣無份 (yǒu yuán wú fèn), which translates to “have fate without destiny.” Thus, staying on the topic of Romeo and Juliet, we can use this word when a couple is destined to come together but not destined to stay together. (An idea that is apparently also used as a sophisticated breakup line.)

6. Forelsket (Norwegian)

“The euphoria experienced as you begin to fall in love.”

This is probably one of the best feelings in the world: butterflies, smiles, and so much romantic oblivion on cloud number nine. (Forelsket may or may not compare to finding 20 bucks in your pocket, getting free dessert, or realizing that you got en extra-large pizza even though you only paid for a large one.)

7. Kilig (Tagalog)

“The feeling of butterflies in your stomach, usually when something romantic takes place.”

I’m pretty sure that Kilig is the Austronesian version of Forelsket – that tingling feeling in your stomach that you only get from being overcome with joy, like, during that first kiss.

8. Commuovere (Italian)

“A heartwarming story that moved you to tears.”

Basically, any movie that has a dog in it usually does this to me. If you want to experience Commuovere first-hand, watch Hachiko, a movie, based on a real-life story, about a dog who waited for his owner at the train station every day – and continued to do so for years after the owner’s death. (It’s ok to cry now.)

9. Depaysement (French)

“The feeling that comes from not being in one’s home country; being a foreigner.”

It’s almost like feeling homesick but more intense; you can feel that you don’t really belong. It’s like a flower uprooted from a lovely garden and thrown into a small pot by a windowsill.

10. Duende (Spanish)

“A work of art’s mysterious power to deeply move a person.”

Duende is often connected to flamenco, but it generally describes one of the beauties of artistic performances of all kinds: they can make you feel things. In Spanish and Latin American mythology, the Duende is a goblin- and elf-like creature that makes sure small children behave.

11. Hiraeth (Welsh)

“A particular type of longing for the homeland or the romanticized past.”

Hiraeth is a lot like being homesick or remembering a part of your life, like university, for instance, when you had all your friends in one place and shared so many great memories that you just want to relive that period in your life over again.

12. Mamihlapinatapei (Yagan)

“The wordless, meaningful look shared by two people who both desire to initiate something, but are both reluctant to do so.”

If you’ve ever had a crush on someone, you’ve experienced Mamihlapinatapei. And it was probably just as confusing as trying to pronounce this Yagan word. (It’s one of the indigenous languages of Tierra del Fuego). Mamihlapinatapei is also considered one of the world’s most succinct and hardest-to-translate words.

13. Toska (Russian)

“A sensation of great spiritual anguish, often without a specific cause; a longing with nothing to long for.”

It’s basically when you feel that something is missing and you know that something is missing, but you don’t know what exactly it is and it leaves you frustrated.

Learn those 750,000 new words with usLearn more

Share this article

Latest articles from Language learning