Favorite untranslatable words? – language words | Ask MetaFilter


I’ve compiled what was discussed in this thread, or at least just my favorite ones:

Backpfeifengesicht: German, a face that cries out for a fist in it.

Bel hevi: Tok Pisin, Papua New Guinea, meaning “belly heavy”, referring to the heavy sinking feeling that accompanies extreme sadness.

Chantepleure: a now-dead English word taken from French, meaning “to sing and cry at the same time”.

Fernweh: German, a longing to be away. Distinguishable from “Wanderlust” in that it’s not about wanting to travel around, but rather the desire to simply be somewhere else, far distant.

Inspirare: the Latin root of “inspiration”, literally meaning “to be breathed into.”

“Kolik jazyku znas, tolikrat jsi clovekem”: Czech proverb, meaning:

You live a new life for every new language you speak.
If you know only one language, you live only once.

Kummerspeck: German, literally translates as “grief-bacon”- it’s the word used to describe the excess weight gained from emotional overeating.

l’ésprit de l’éscalier: In French, the term for thinking of the perfect comeback, but hours later. Literally: “the wit of the staircase [when leaving]”. The Germans also have a word for it: Treppenwitz

l’appelle d’vide: French, the urge to jump from high places, literally, “the call of the void.”

Lacrimae rerum: the tears of things. Lacrimae rerum refers to a line from Virgil’s “The Aeneid”: sunt lacrimae rerum et mentem mortalia tangunt, which can be translated as: “these are the tears of things, and our mortality cuts to the heart”.

Lítost: a Czech word, a fusion of self pity, regret and fear. Milan Kundera wrote: “Litost is a state of torment created by the sudden sight of one’s own misery.”

Mamihlapinatapei: Yagán, Indigenous language of Tierra del Fuego, Chile: “a meaningful look shared by two people expressing mutual unstated feelings.” It describes a look in which each person is hoping that the other will initiate something that they both desire, but which neither person wants to start. Yagán or Yámana is a language isolate, meaning that it’s a “natural language with no demonstrable genealogical or genetic relationship with other living languages”. There are only two living people left who speak this language.

Meraki: Greek, to do something with soul, creativity, or love. To put something of yourself into what you do, usually used to refer to preparing a meal or cooking.

Mokita: meaning: the truth which everyone knows but no one speaks, or; an open secret. It comes from the Kilivila language spoken on Kiriwina, the largest of the Trobriand Islands, part of Papua New Guinea.

Mono-no-aware: (物の哀れ) a Japanese term used to describe the awareness of the transience of things, the sadness/vitality of things, the moving intimacy of things, “the ahhh-ness of things/life/love.”

Onsay: Boro, an indigenous dialect of India, onsay means “to pretend to love”. Ongubsy means “to love from the heart.” Onsia translates as “to love for the last time.”

Taarradhin: It’s difficult to find a word close to “compromise” in Arabic, But “taarradhin” implies a happy solution for everyone, “I win, you win.” A way of resolving a problem without anyone losing face.

Tingo: Pascuense language of Easter Island: To borrow objects from a friend’s house, one by one, until there’s nothing left.

Torschlüsspanik: “the frantic anxiety experienced by unmarried women as they race against the biological clock.” The fear of diminishing opportunities as one gets older, literally: door-shutting panic.

Wabi-sabi: (in Kanji: 侘寂) represents a Japanese aesthetic, dealing with beauty that’s imperfect, impermanent or incomplete. “It (wabi-sabi) nurtures all that is authentic by acknowledging three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect.” Flawed beauty, the beauty of a pot that has a crack in it.

Ya’aburnee: Arabic for, literally: you bury me.


About Klassy

How Klassy got her groove back.

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