79 Untranslatable Words from Around the World

One of my favorite words in the English language is “defenestration.” It’s a beautifully succinct way to say “the act of throwing something (or someone) out of a window.”

There are many such words in other languages, words that can’t be translated directly into one English word. Find them on my guide to the most beautiful untranslatable words in different languages from around the world, complete with Forvo pronunciation guides.


Emotions and Feelings

Have you ever had a feeling that you couldn’t quite name? Maybe you can find a word for it in a different language. Try these: 

  • Saudade (Portuguese) — A deep emotional state of longing or nostalgia.
  • Mono no aware (Japanese) — The bittersweet beauty of transient emotions and the impermanence of things.
  • Toska (Russian) — A sense of deep spiritual anguish, often without a specific cause.
  • Gigil (Tagalog) — The irresistible urge to pinch or squeeze something that’s unbearably cute.
  • Meraki (Greek) — Putting your soul, creativity and love into something you do.
  • Hiraeth (Welsh) — A homesickness for a place that may not exist or has never been.
  • Forelsket (Norwegian) — The euphoria of falling in love.
  • Kilig (Tagalog) — The exhilarating feeling of butterflies in the stomach, often when in love.
  • Ya’aburnee (Arabic) — The hope that you will die before someone you love deeply, to spare yourself the pain of living without them.
  • Razliubit (Russian) — The feeling of falling out of love.
  • Hygge (Danish) — A cozy and comfortable feeling of contentment.
  • Sisu (Finnish) — Extraordinary determination and resilience in the face of adversity.
  • Tarab (Arabic) — The heightened emotional state achieved through music.
  • Sprezzatura (Italian) — Effortless grace and nonchalance.
  • Fernweh (German) — A deep ache for distant places; wanderlust.
  • Vorfreude (German) — The joyful, intense anticipation that comes from imagining future pleasures, especially those related to nature.
  • Duende (Spanish) — The mysterious power and passion that a work of art or the natural world can evoke.
  • Iktsuarpok (Inuit) — The anticipation one feels when waiting for someone and constantly checking to see if they have arrived.
  • Natsukashii (Japanese) — A nostalgic longing for the past, with happiness and sadness blended together.
  • Torschlusspanik (German) — The fear of diminishing opportunities as one gets older.
  • Déjà vu (French) — The feeling of having experienced something before.
  • Schadenfreude (German) — The pleasure derived from another person’s misfortune.
  • Dépaysement (French) — The disorientation or culture shock one feels in a foreign country.

Nature and the Universe

Nature evokes so many feelings, it’s no wonder that it’s inspired many words all around the world!

  • Komorebi (Japanese) — The interplay of light and leaves when sunlight filters through trees.
  • Waldeinsamkeit (German) — The feeling of being alone in the woods.
  • Shinrin-yoku (Japanese) — The practice of “forest bathing” or immersing oneself in the forest atmosphere.
  • Sólarfrí (Icelandic) — An unexpected, sunny day during the cold winter.
  • Sólskin (Icelandic) — The act of refraining from work to enjoy a sunny day.
  • Friluftsliv (Norwegian) — The concept of open-air living and spending time outdoors, appreciating nature.
  • Mångata (Swedish) — The glimmering, road-like reflection that the moon creates on the water.
  • Yūgen (Japanese) — An awareness of the universe that triggers emotional responses too deep and mysterious for words.
  • Utepils (Norwegian) — The first beer enjoyed outdoors in the sunshine.
  • Ziran (Chinese) — The natural state of things, free from human intervention.
  • Gökotta (Swedish) — The act of rising early in the morning to hear the first birds sing.

Love, Relationships and Family

Love, relationships and family are complicated. So complicated that you can’t quite define some of these relationships in just one word… at least, in English.

  • Mamihlapinatapei (Yaghan) — A look shared by two people, each wishing that the other would initiate something that they both desire but which neither wants to begin.
  • Cafuné (Portuguese) — The act of tenderly running your fingers through your lover’s hair.
  • Retrouvailles (French) — The joy of reuniting with someone after a long separation.
  • Cwtch (Welsh) — A warm, affectionate hug, often between family members.
  • Tartle (Scottish) — Hesitating while introducing someone because you’ve forgotten their name.
  • Fremdschämen (German) — The feeling of horror associated with someone being oblivious to how embarrassing they are.
  • Shinyuu (Japanese) — A person with whom one has a deep and trusting friendship.
  • Tingo (Pascuense, Easter Island) — The act of taking objects one desires from the house of a friend by gradually borrowing all of them. 

Culture and Philosophy

These untranslatable words embody cultural concepts and philosophies, from the Navajo idea of “Hózhó,” signifying balance and harmony, to the German notion of “Gemütlichkeit,” conveying warmth and cheer.

  • Hózhó (Navajo) — A state of balance and harmony with the world, encompassing beauty, order and stability.
  • Ubuntu (Zulu) — A Southern African philosophy emphasizing community and humanity.
  • Gemütlichkeit (German) — A sense of warmth, friendliness and good cheer.
  • Wabi-sabi (Japanese) — Finding beauty in imperfection and the natural cycle of growth and decay.
  • Fika (Swedish) — The cultural ritual of taking a break for coffee and conversation.
  • Inshallah (Arabic) — “God willing,” expressing acceptance of what the future holds.
  • Qi (Chinese) — Vital life force or energy inherent in all things.
  • Iki (Japanese) — The aesthetic of simplicity and spontaneity.
  • Zhi mian (Chinese) — The sense of duty or moral responsibility that one has toward society.
  • Sankofa (Akan) — The importance of learning from the past to build for the future.
  • Ikigai (Japanese) — A reason for being, a concept encompassing joy, a sense of purpose and fulfillment.


The words here reveal some cultural attitudes towards food. They’re all unique… and delicious!

  • Umami (Japanese) — The savory taste, often associated with broths, mushrooms and cooked meats.
  • Sobremesa (Spanish) — The time spent lingering at the table after a meal, talking and enjoying each other’s company.
  • Banchan (Korean) — Small side dishes served along with cooked rice in Korean cuisine.
  • Sarap (Tagalog) — A term used to express the pleasure or deliciousness of food.
  • Nyotaimori (Japanese) — The practice of serving sushi or sashimi on a naked woman’s body.
  • Bento (Japanese) — A single-portion takeout or home-packed meal in Japanese cuisine.
  • Tsukemono (Japanese) — Pickled vegetables, often served as a side dish in Japanese cuisine.
  • Culaccino (Italian) — The mark left on a table by a cold glass.
  • Kaiseki (Japanese) — A multi-course meal in Japanese haute cuisine.
  • Gezelligheid (Dutch) — A warm, cozy atmosphere where friends and loved ones come together.

Other Untranslatable Words

These words are so unique they defy even categorization. Here are some more untranslatable words for concepts that don’t quite fit into any of the categories above.

  • Mbuki-mvuki (Bantu) — The irresistible urge to shed clothes and dance.
  • Jayus (Indonesian) — A joke so poorly told and so unfunny that one cannot help but laugh.
  • Pålegg (Norwegian) — Anything and everything that can be put on a slice of bread.
  • Lagom (Swedish) — Not too much, not too little—just the right amount.
  • Tsundoku (Japanese) — The act of acquiring books but letting them pile up unread.
  • Påskekrim (Norwegian) — The tradition of reading crime novels during Easter.
  • Boketto (Japanese) — The act of gazing vacantly into the distance without thinking.
  • Age-otori (Japanese) — The concept of looking worse after a haircut.
  • Shoogly (Scottish) — Something that is unsteady or shaky.
  • Amae (Japanese) — The act of relying on or being dependent on another person’s goodwill.
  • Mokita (Kivila, Papua New Guinea) — The truth that everyone knows but agrees not to talk about.
  • Querencia (Spanish) — A place where one feels safe, a place from which one’s strength of character is drawn.
  • Desenrascanço (Portuguese) — The ability to improvise and make do with what you have.
  • Nunchi (Korean) — The ability to gauge others’ moods and respond appropriately.
  • Pana po’o (Hawaiian) — To scratch your head in order to help you remember something.
  • Pochemuchka (Russian) — A person who asks a lot of questions.


All these unique words are beautiful in their own way. Next time you can’t quite find the perfect word for a concept, try reaching for one of these untranslatable words from other languages, instead!

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