Language is such a fascinating area of study — whether you’re studying one language in particular or a myriad of languages. You quickly begin to understand little patterns, cultural nuances, and slight differences that paint a picture of the language itself and the people who speak it.
As English speakers, we have our own rules and regulations when it comes to how we speak, the way we form sentences, and the phrases we use just like with other languages. But it is always fun to see where the English language and other languages around the world collide.
One of our favorite things to look at when studying languages are the words that are seemingly untranslatable — the words and phrases that have no direct translation to English and many other languages for that matter.
Not only is it a great fun fact to have in the back of your pocket, but it’s always a fantastic way to get a look into another culture and to understand where they put specific focus and attention.
So without further ado, let’s dive into some of our favorite untranslatable words across the globe!
This French word is one of our favorites, and any expat or travel-lover has definitely felt the feeling. Dépaysement is a word that describes the feeling of longing or sadness when missing your home country.
This German word is a fun one, even if its meaning might sound a little negative. Schadenfreude refers to the feeling you get when you watch someone else’s misfortunes — just think of shows like Wipe Out and America’s Funniest Home Videos and you’ll understand.
Art lovers are sure to love and understand this Spanish untranslatable word. Duende is a fascinating word that explains the powerful feeling a piece of art can have on a person. If you’ve ever felt truly compelled after looking at a painting or sculpture, you’ve experienced duende.
This Portuguese word is a melancholic one, but it is one that we will all feel at one time or another. Saudade refers to the intense feeling of longing and sadness for someone or something that you love that you have lost. It’s a powerful feeling — much more than simple sadness.
This Turkish noun is a beautiful word that takes an unnecessarily long phrase and cuts it down into a few syllables. And it’s a word that everyone has probably spoken out in their own mother tongue. Yakamoz is a word that describes the beautiful reflection of the moon on a shimmering body of water. It’s elegant and serene much like the scene it paints.
These are just a handful of the hundreds of words and phrases out there that lack a direct translation into English and other languages. They are powerful, moving, fun, and intense. And that’s why we wanted to share them with you!