21 Beautiful Words in Other Languages That Don’t Exist in English
As flexible as the English language is, it still has its limitations.
If you expand your horizons by opening your mind to beautiful words and phrases in other languages from around the world, you’ll always know just what to say.
So let’s take a look at 21 beautiful words we just can’t find the words for in English!
- 1. Douleur Exquise
- 2. Sobremesa
- 3. Heimat
- 4. Forelsket
- 5. Hyggeligt
- 6. Тоска (Toska)
- 7. 浮世絵 (Ukiyo-e)
- 8. Gigil
- 9. เกรงใจ (kreng-JAI)
- 10. Jayus
- 11. تقبرني (To’oborni)
- 12. Ilunga (ee-LOON-ga)
- 13. Schadenfreude
- 14. Iktsuarpok
- 15. Utepils
- 16. Lítost
- 16. Mokita (mo-KEE-ta)
- 17. Mamihlapinatapei
- 18. 侘寂 (Wabi-sabi)
- 19. Tingo (TEEN-gō)
- 20. Trepverter
- 21. Tartle
1. Douleur Exquise
Meaning: The pain of unrequited love.
Love. The gift and the curse. The be all and end all. We all know what it feels like to love someone. It’s the best feeling in the world—when it’s reciprocated.
Many of us know the feeling of looking on at that other person and wanting nothing more than to be forever wrapped in their arms, but knowing it will never happen because they don’t love you back.
Here are some more unique French words.
Meaning: The conversation at the table that continues after a meal is over.
There are little joys in life like that of gathering together for a meal with family and close friends. The food, the drinks and the laughter can make for great memories.
We get so swept up in the conversation that hours can slip by unnoticed. In Latin cultures, this practice is so common that they even came up with a word for it.
Here are some more untranslatable Spanish words.
Meaning: The place we’re connected to that shaped who we are.
Most of us associate who we are with where we come from. The food, the music, the art, friends, family, school, childhood memories and adulthood experiences all stem from the place we call home.
Heimat means the place that makes us who we are. It encompasses the attitudes and beliefs we’ve formed that have evolved over generations. It doesn’t refer to just homeland pride, but to our roots.
Meaning: The feelings you have when you’re falling in love with someone but you haven’t quite reached love yet.
Is it infatuation? Fascination? Obsession? This is the word to describe that giddy feeling when we haven’t reached the point of “I love you,” but we’re past the initial crush phase.
In English, the best we’ve got for the feeling in this stage of a relationship is “I really, really like you a lot” or “I like like you.” If you ask a Norwegian, they’ll say it’s forelsket.
Meaning: A feeling of extreme comfort or coziness.
This is that feeling you get when you’re cuddled up with that special someone, or when your mom makes your favorite meal while you’re home for the holidays.
Maybe you get it when you’re curled up on the couch with a cup of hot cocoa watching Netflix. It’s that warm tingly feeling of comfort in your chest and your bones that makes you want to stay in the moment forever.
6. Тоска (Toska)
Meaning: A feeling of deep spiritual anguish for no specific reason.
It’s been said that no words in the English language could ever capture the full meaning of toska. Let’s give it a shot anyway. This word is used to describe a deep, dark feeling of despair.
It’s the ultimate feeling of yearning and hopelessness. It’s the kind of pain that tortures the soul. It’s pure, unadulterated, heart-wrenching sadness—something we’d all like to feel on a very infrequent basis.
Here are some more untranslatable Russian words.
7. 浮世絵 (Ukiyo-e)
Meaning: Someone who lives in the moment and is detached from the minor distractions in life.
This word literally means “floating world,” but it’s used to describe people who don’t take a second of their life for granted. They live in the present and don’t let the small things get to them.
As difficult as this level of enlightenment is to achieve, how great would it be if we could all just let the small things roll off of our backs?
Here are some more beautiful Japanese words.
Language: Filipino, Tagalog
Meaning: The sudden urge to want to squeeze someone or something out of extreme cuteness or irritation.
There’s the adorable baby in the supermarket waving at all the passersby. Then there’s the mischievous cat that knocks your morning coffee off of the counter before you’ve had a single sip.
Both of them exhibit such intense cuteness that they give you this extreme urge of wanting to squeeze them, and that’s what this word tries to capture.
The closest phrase in the English language for this word and sensation is “I could just eat you up.” However, the English phrase only captures the positive end of this sensation.
9. เกรงใจ (kreng-JAI)
Meaning: Not wanting someone to have to go out of their way for you.
The world would be a much happier place if everyone showed some common courtesy. However, it would be a utopia if everyone showed some kreng-jai.
The sentiment behind this word is related to an extreme sense of courtesy. It comes from a place of not wanting anyone to have to inconvenience themselves for you. “Please don’t go to any trouble,” is generally something we say to be polite. If the other person insists, we often cave.
Kreng-jai is the opposite. You would still insist that the other person doesn’t go to any trouble.
Meaning: A joke so bad or told so poorly that one can’t help but laugh.
Two men walk into a bar—you’d think one of them would have seen it. Yup. The bad joke. Don’t worry, I’ll keep my day job.
Most of the time, when someone tells a bad joke, the room falls into that uncomfortable awkward silence and the joke teller ends up mortified. However, some jokes are so astonishingly bad that we can’t help but laugh at them.
It’s one of those stolen moments of joy where, fortunately, no one’s pride is injured in the process.
11. تقبرني (To’oborni)
Meaning: You bury me; I love you so much that I want to die before you.
Early on, we got a taste of the pain of unrequited love, but now we’re in the realm of unconditional love.
This is a word used for that person who you love so much that you would rather die than be on this earth without them. It’s appropriate for use between a parent and child, romantic partners and even close friends.
12. Ilunga (ee-LOON-ga)
Meaning: A person who will forgive someone for the first offense against them, tolerate it a second time, but not forgive them for the third time.
This is from Tshiluba, a language spoken in a region of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
It may be one of the hardest words to translate because it has so many layered meanings. This one little word touches on patience, forgiveness and breaking points.
Meaning: Pleasure derived from someone’s misfortune.
Thanks in part to the popular musical “Avenue Q,” which dedicates a whole song (with adult content, so be warned) to it, Schadenfreude is perhaps one of the better known untranslatable words.
An example of Schadenfreude would be if a rival of yours failed in something and you felt satisfaction from it. You’ve also probably laughed at videos of people falling down or getting hurt—the most common example there is.
Meaning: The feeling of anticipation when you are waiting for someone to arrive and keep checking to see if they have arrived yet.
This is from Inuktitut, an Inuit language from Arctic region in central and eastern Canada. It implies impatience, a bit of anxiety and nervousness.
You’ve probably felt this when going on a date, or when you’ve ordered something and you keep waiting for the delivery person to arrive. You just can’t sit still!
Meaning: Drinking a beer outdoors
This Norwegian word literally means “outdoors lager” from ute, meaning outside, and pils, meaning lager. For true utepils, the weather should also be sunny, particularly after a long winter.
A more exact definition could be “the first drink of the year taken out of doors.” And as you might know, Norway does have long winters! What better way to celebrate the return of warm days or even the slightest bit of sun.
Meaning: The sudden feeling of recognizing your own failures and miseries.
This one is a combination of humiliation, remorse and self-pity. It often starts with a deep self-awareness of your own misery and then the anguish (and perhaps a bit of spiraling) that follows.
So next time you’re wallowing in your humanness, you can recognize the emotion as lítost.
16. Mokita (mo-KEE-ta)
Meaning: Something everyone knows but does not discuss.
This comes from Kilivila, an Austronesian language used in the Trobriand Islands of Papua New Guinea.
This is like the elephant in the room, the thing that everyone is aware of, but there’s an unspoken agreement not to bring up. Perhaps you have something like this in your friend circle or family.
Meaning: An expressive exchange of glances when two people share the same thought.
This word comes from Yaghan (or Yagán), an extinct indigenous language from Tierra del Fuego, the southern tip of South America.
The thought shared may very well be romantic and there can be an aspect of desire and not initiating, but that depends on which definition you choose.
The Guinness Book of World Records named mamilhlapinatapei the “most succinct word.” That’s quite an accomplishment for a word that’s 16 letters long!
18. 侘寂 (Wabi-sabi)
Description: Beautiful imperfection.
You might have heard this one, as its become quite popular in Western countries over the years. It’s an aesthetic concept that stems from Buddhist teachings.
It’s a philosophy, artistic concept and feeling all in one. Besides imperfection, there’s also an aspect of impermanence and that something becomes more beautiful even as it decays with the flow of time.
19. Tingo (TEEN-gō)
Language: Pascuenese/Rapa Nui
Meaning: 1) To haul as much as you can. 2) To borrow your neighbor’s belongings one at a time until they’re all gone.
This word is from Rapa Nui, also known as Pascuenese, an indigenous language of Easter Island. Depending on the source, you may find these two different definitions for tingo, but you might see the second one more often.
Perhaps you’ve had this done to you, when your items slowly disappear from your house and you discover them at a family member’s home later on.
Meaning: A witty comeback you think of too late.
This one literally means “staircase words.” In fact, there are a few similar words and phrases in other languages, such as l’esprit d’escalier in French, задним умом крепки in Russian, and “staircase wit” or “escalator wit” in English.
You’ve no doubt experienced this one, when you’re lying in bed later and think of the perfect, clever response long after the encounter occurred. How frustrating!
Meaning: Hesitation when you’re about to introduce someone but have abruptly realized you’ve forgotten his or her name.
This is the embarrassing moment when your mind goes blank for a moment (or longer). The original definition has an element of failure of recognition of a person or thing.
You can use it as a verb, as in, “I totally tartled.” The Scottish also have a specific phrase for this word, in which you can say, “Pardon my tartle.“
And speaking of names, check out this post next:
As you can see, it’s a big, beautiful world out there.
Ready to start exploring?