20 Brilliant Foreign Language Words That Have No English Translation


Whether you can fluently speak six languages or you use the phrase ‘it’s all Greek to me’ without any irony, language is an important part of how we communicate with each other. Sometimes though, our language falls short and we have to borrow words from other dictionaries that somehow perfectly capture moments or emotions that leave us speechless. From everyday occurrences to profound moments of sadness and longing, there are words out there to describe the entire spectrum of human experience.

We’ve rounded up some of the best of them, from the simply wonderful Yiddish word that means wholeheartedly appreciating someone else’s success to the hilarious German word that reminds us that no matter where you’re from, we all know someone that we have an irrational urge to punch in the face. To find out what they are, and many more words to impress (or offend) your friends with, read on to discover our favourite foreign language words with no English translation.

Fernweh (German)

This beautiful German word describes that strange sense of homesickness for a place you’ve never been to. Like Ancient Rome – or Hogwarts.

words with no english translation

Yūgen (Japanese)

The concept this word describes is very important in Japanese culture, although you may have felt it yourself in a quiet moment of contemplation or shared tragedy. It means feeling a profound and mysterious sense of the beauty of the universe, as well as the sad beauty of human suffering.

Lagom (Swedish)

Becoming increasingly popular in the western world, this Swedish word is one of perfect moderation. It means taking not too much, not too little, just the right amount for you, often when sharing things with others.

Razbliuto (Russian)

An emotion that mixes beauty, sadness and nostalgia, few of us would be able to summarise in one word that strange and special feeling you have for someone you once loved. The Russians can though, and it’s Razbliuto.

words with no english translation

Bakku-shan (Japanese)

Some of the words on this list are beautifully romantic; this one is not. Bakku-shan refers to a girl that you thought was beautiful when you saw her from behind, but when she turned around she was not.

Schlimazel (Yiddish)

You always miss the train by one minute no matter how early you are, you’ve missed out on winning the lottery by one number more than once, and things that statistically only affect 1% of people always affect you. There’s a Yiddish word for people like you and it’s Schlimazl. It means a person that is chronically unlucky.

Sobremesa (Spanish)

The empty plates are crossed with cutlery and pushed away and the serving dishes long ago ran out of food, but everyone is still sitting around the table talking, drinking, and laughing. This Spanish word is for that moment when the food is finished, but the conversation around the table is still flowing.

words with no english translation

Fisselig (German)

Do you ever find that you’re suddenly completely incapable of using a computer keyboard if your boss looks over your shoulder? You’re fisselig, or flustered to the point of incompetence.

Pochemuchka (Russian)

The boy who won’t stop asking irrelevant questions in class and your little niece who always follows any answer up with the question ‘why?’ are both Pochemuchka – a person who asks too many questions.

Iktsuarpok (Inuit)

Few things are more embarrassing than hovering near a doorway for 10 minutes while you repeatedly and conspicuously check your phone because your friend is late yet again. In fact, the Inuit people experience it so often that they have an entire word to describe that exact feeling of frustration and annoyance while you’re waiting for someone to show up: iktsuarpok.

words with no english translation

Koi No Yokan (Japanese)

Not quite love at first sight, this Japanese phrase is for the slightly more realistic feeling of meeting someone and knowing that falling in love with each other is inevitable.

Cavoli Riscaldati (Italian)

This phrase describes that useless attempt to revive a relationship that you knew was doomed from the start. The fact that it directly translates as ‘reheated cabbage’ just shows you how perfect it is.

Desbundar (Portuguese)

The UK is notorious for being a bit introverted, so maybe we should all get into the Portuguese idea of Desbundar, which means letting go of your inhibitions and having fun.

words with no english translation

Schnapsidee (German)

If you’ve ever woken up the morning after the night before, only to realise with a sense of impending doom that you not only agreed to go on holiday with a stranger, but you also booked tickets, you’ve experienced schnapsidee. The German word can apply to both a ridiculous plan you hatched when you were drunk or one so mad that you can only have been drunk to come up with it.

Viraha (Hindi)

The beautiful Hindi word Viraha refers to the sudden realisation that you are in love with someone because you’re separated from them. Hopefully, you come back from your travels to discover they feel the same.

Jayus (Indonesian)

We might call them dad jokes, but in the Indonesian language a joke that’s so unfunny you can’t help but laugh at it is called Jayus.

words with no english translation

Backpfeifengesicht (German)

Have you ever met someone whose face just inexplicably annoys you so much that you can’t help but want to punch them? Apparently it happens to German speakers so often they have an entire word just for that feeling. Backpfeifengesicht roughly translates as ‘a face badly in need of a fist’.

Mencomot (Indonesian)

Not a thrill-seeking activity that we’re advocating, but the Indonesian word mencomot means stealing things of little value just for the fun of it.

Fargin (Yiddish)

Schadenfreude, a German word that describes getting a feeling of pleasure from someone else’s misery, is maybe one of the most famous words without an English translation. Perhaps we’d do better to learn the Yiddish word Fargin, however, which means wholeheartedly celebrating the success of others.

Ya’arburnee (Arabic)

Beautiful and morbid in equal measures, the Arabic word Ya’arburnee describes the feeling of wanting to die first because you can’t bear the thought of being without the one you love. It literally translates as ‘may you bury me’.

If you want to use one of these brilliant words in the culture where they originated, why not book a Cruise1st UK deal on a cruise that visits the home of the language? Browse the full collection of itineraries online or call our friendly sales team on 0808 2746 777.


About Author

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Claire has worked in the travel industry since leaving college in 1994. One of this blog's most regular contributors, Claire covers cruise news and industry trends.

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