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Lost in Translation: Untranslatable Words from Around the World

Lost in Translation: Untranslatable Words from Around the World

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Here is a list of 15 of our favourite untranslatable words:

1. Toska (Russian): A word roughly translated as sadness, melancholia, lugubriousness.  Vladmir Nabokov describes it best: “No single word in English renders all the shades of toska. 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 or something specific, nostalgia, love-sickness. At the lowest level it grades into ennui, boredom.”

2. Torschlusspanik (German): Literally, “Gate-closing-panic”. The anxious, claustrophobic feeling that time is running out; that we are missing out on opportunities and that life is just passing us by.

3. Koi No Yokan (Japanese): The sense one can have upon first meeting a person that the two are destined to fall in love.

4. Viraha (Hindi): The realisation of love through separation.

5. Abbiocco (Italian): The drowsiness you feel after eating a large meal – a very typical Italian feeling.

6. Jayus (Indonesian): A joke so poorly told and so unfunny that one cannot help but laugh.

7. Tartle (Scottish): The act of hesitating while introducing someone because you’ve forgotten their name.

8. Cafuné (Brazilian Portuguese): The act of tenderly running one’s fingers through someone’s hair.

9. Wabi-Sabi (Japanese): Finding beauty within the imperfections of life and accepting peacefully the natural cycle of growth and decay.

10. Dépaysement (French): The feeling that comes from not being in one’s home country.

11. Gezelligheid (Dutch): Closest translations are “cozy” and “welcoming”, often referring to a warm atmosphere.

12. Ya’aburnee (Arabic): Literally “You bury me”, an expression said in hope of death before another person because of how unbearable it would be to live without them.

13. Utepils (Norwegian): To sit outside on a sunny day and enjoy a beer.

14. Sobremesa (Spanish): After-lunch conversation around the table.

15. Fika (Swedish): Gathering together to talk and take a break from everyday routines, either at a cafe or at home.

Let’s all get lost in translation.

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