Non-Existent Words in English That Are Hard to Translate

hard to translate non-existent english words

There are many words not existing in English that could help making communicating a lot easier. These non-existent words in the English language convey information quickly, or get an emotion across without a long and wordy explanation. Take a look at some of these fascinating words.

For example, the feeling you get after something has happened and you think of all the things you could have said but didn't. If you were reading this in French, L’esprit de l’escalier would have delivered the same message.

Now imagine a situation where you have someone who is doing an act for you, that you really didn’t want them to do and did all you could do to avoid them doing it, but they still insisted to do this favour for you out of determination which then resulted in you having to thank them out of politeness even though it got you into trouble. That entire scenario is simply Arigata-meiwaku in Japanese which
simply means something like unwelcomed kindness.

As you can see, some of the words that don’t exist in English can actually help you improve communication. But what about non-existent words that convey emotions derived from certain situations?

Forelsket in Norwegian is the euphoric feeling of falling in love at the start of the relationship, while Mamihlapinatapai in Yaghan would suggest that the people meeting have a shared, yet unspoken desire for each other.
Gigil in Filipino is the feeling when you see a baby that is so cute and you just want to pinch their cheeks.

The list goes on and there are quite a few non-existent words in English that if they existed, would help to make conversation a little easier. Here is a list of some more great words that you should know.


Arabic

  • Ya’aburnee
    Literally means ''you bury me''.  It is the declaration of one’s wishes that they will die before another person because it would be unbearable to live a life without this individual.

Chinese (Mandarin)

  • Xinteng
    A feeling somewhere between sympathy and empathy when you see the suffering of loved ones.
  • Huoda
    Optimistic, generous and easy going with a relaxed attitude towards everything and accepting things how they are.
  • Zhainan or Zhainv
    Refers to either a boy (zhainan) or a girl (zhainv) who prefers to spend his free time locked at home in his room.

Croation

  • Milozvučan
    Having a voice that sounds sweet and gentle

Czech

  • Prozvonit, Wangiri (Japanese)
    To call a mobile phone and let it ring only once so that the other person would call back which would save the initial caller some money.
  • Litost
    It is a state of agony, anguish and torment that is created by the sudden sight of one’s own misery.

Dutch

  • Uitwaaien
    Taking a brief break from a stressful activity and go for a walk outside to clear your head.

Finish

  • Sisu
    A silent but strong determination to overcome your weakness and improve it. Can be also expressed as a courage to persevere in order to overcome a certain weakness.

French

  • Gachis
    When opportunities have been thrown against someone but he or she did not take action. Similar to a wasted opportunity. 
  • La Douleur Exquisite
    The heart-wrenching painful feeling of wanting someone you can’t have or who is unattainable.
  • Retrouvailles
    The feeling of happiness of meeting again after not seeing each other for a long time.

German

  • Schadenfreude
    The pleasure you get from seeing someone else’s pain or suffering.
  • Geisterfahrer
    Literally 'ghost driver', is another word used for someone who's driving on the wrong side of the road.
  • Torschlusspanik
    Literally means “gate-closing panic” Describe the fear of diminishing opportunities as one gets older.
  • Kummerspeck
    Literally grief-fat, is the weight that you gained due to eating excessively because of a depression.
  • Verschlimmbesserung
    After making a change to something with the intention to improve it, only to later find out that you made it worse.

Greek

  • Meraki
    When you put your heart and soul into your craft and fill it with love.

Indonesian

  • Jayus
    A joke that is so badly told and unfunny that you can’t help yourself from laughing and finding it funny.

Japanese

  • Age-otori
    A person looking worse after a haircut than he did before.
  • Wabi-Sabi
    It is a way of living or lifestyle that emphasizes finding beauty in imperfection, and accepting the natural cycle of growth and decay.
  • Ikigai
    A Japanese word meaning “reason for being.” On the island of Okinawa, it is thought of as “a reason to get up in the morning,” a philosophy which has been linked to the longevity of the people there.
  • Hikikomori
    Mostly refers to a teenager or a young man who withdrew himself from social life due to his obsession of TV and video games.
  • Koi No Yokan
    Knowing that you will love eachother in the future although there is no love between eachother right now. It is therefore somewhat different than “love at first sight”.

Korean

  • Kulseyo
    There are also some non-existent words in English that do exist however in the Korean language. For example, Kulseyo is a very polite way of expressing doubt about what’s being said, much more polite than saying “whatever” or “yeah, right”. It’s more like  ‘‘hmm, I’ll think about that.”

Latin

  • Aemulatio
    Roman alternative to plagiarism: Aemulatio means to show respect for literary predecessors by writing an improved version of their work.

Malay

  • Manja
    The childlike behavior of a woman in order to get pampering and sympathy.

Portuguese

  • Cafuné
    The act of tenderly running one’s fingers through someone’s hair.

Russian

  • Razbliuto
    The sentimental feeling you have about someone you once loved but no longer do.
  • Toska
    A longing with nothing to long for, or a spiritual anguish that is felt often without knowing the cause.

Spanish

  • Duende
    The mysterious power a piece of art has in order to deeply move a person.
  • Saudade
    It refers to the feeling of longing for something or someone that you love and which is lost. It is sometimes also translated as "the love that remains" after someone is gone. It is considered to be one of the most famous non-existent words.
  • Friolero
    A person who is especially sensitive to cold weather and temperatures.

Swedish

  • Mångata
    A road-like reflection of the moon in the water.

(Tshiluba) language from Congo

  • Ilunga
    When a person forgives abuse the first time, becomes tolerant to it the next time, but doesn’t accept it a third time.


What other non-existent words do you know. Let us know in the comments below.



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