“Curiously, intellectuals and poets from different national traditions began to claim that they had a special word for homesickness that was radically untranslatable: the Portuguese had their saudade, Russians toska, Czechs litost’, Romanians dor … untranslatable words of national uniqueness [that] proved to be synonyms of the same historical emotion.”
1. Mamihlapinatapai (Yaghan, Tierra del Fuego) – This term, which holds the Guinness World Record for “most succinct word,” means “looking at each other hoping that either will offer to do something which both parties desire but are unwilling to do.”
2. Saudade (Portuguese) - A melancholic nostalgia for someone or something from the past.
3. Tuqburni (Arabic) – The literal translation is “You bury me,” referring to a love so deep you can’t imagine living life without your partner.
4. Bakku-shan (Japanese) - A girl who’s only attractive when she’s viewed from behind.
5. Forelsket (Norwegian) – That intoxicatingly euphoric feeling you experience when you’re first falling in love.
6. Cafuné (Portuguese) - The act of running your fingers through your lover’s hair.
7. Paasa (Tagalog) – “A person who leads someone on (intentionally or not). Appearing as if they are genuinely interested romantically when they aren’t.”
8. Kummerspeck (German) – Literally translating to “grief bacon,” this delightful word refers to the less-than-delightful excess weight you gain from emotional overeating.
9. Onsra (Boro language of India) - That bittersweet feeling of loving for the last time — in other words, that feeling you get when you know a love won’t last.
10. Gretchenfrage (German) - A question asked for the purpose of finding out someone’s real intentions. First dates are overflowing with Gretchenfrages.
11. La douleur exquise (French) – The excruciating pain that comes from wanting someone you can’t have.
12. Queesting (Dutch) – A whole verb dedicated to inviting a lover into your bed for some pillow talk.
13. Oodal (Tamil) - The fake-sulking you do after getting into a lovers’ tiff, usually over something inconsequential. Also see: crocodile tears.
14. Kilig (Tagalog) – The stupid-silly rush you feel immediately after something good happens, especially when it comes to love (like after accidentally bumping into your crush.)
15. Cavoli riscaldati (Italian) – When you attempt to start up a failed relationship or love affair. Also, literally, ‘reheated cabbage.’
16. Buksvåger (Swedish) – What you call someone who has had sex with someone you’ve already had sex with.
17. Koi no yokan (Japanese) - It’s not quite love at first sight, but koi no yokan is nevertheless the feeling you get upon meeting someone that love will happen for the two of you, in time.
18. Gigil (Tagalog) – That indescribable, irresistible urge to grab or pinch something or someone super-adorable.
19. Iktsuarpok (Inuit) - The anticipation you feel when you’re waiting for someone to show up at your house.
20. Voorpret (Dutch) - That feeling of excitement you get even before an event actually takes place. Literally translates to “pre-fun.”
21. Retrouvailles (French) - Retrouvailles, or “rediscovery,” refers to the happiness you feel upon reuniting with someone after you’ve been apart for a long time.
22. Razbliuto (Russian) – The (usually sentimental) feeling you have toward someone you used to loved but no longer do.
23. Viraag (Hindi) - The emotional pain of being separated from a loved one.
24. Fensterln (German) – When you have to climb through someone’s window in order to have sex with them without their parents knowing about it.
25. Layogenic (Tagalog) – When someone looks attractive from far away, but, oh, they’re getting closer, oh, never mind. Also see: Total Monet
Toska (Russian) /ˈtō-skə/ - A sensation of great spiritual anguish, often without any specific cause.
"No single word in English renders all the shades of toska. At its deepest and most painful, it is a sensation of great spiritual anguish, often without any specific cause. At less morbid levels it is a dull ache of the soul, a longing with nothing to long for, a sick pining, a vague restlessness, mental throes, yearning. In particular cases it may be the desire for somebody of something specific, nostalgia, love-sickness. At the lowest level it grades into ennui, boredom."
— Vladimir Nabokov
Mamihlapinatapei (Yagan, indigenous language of Tierra del Fuego) –the wordless, yet meaningful look shared by two people who both desire to initiate something but are both reluctant to start.
Jayus (Indonesian) – A joke so poorly told and so unfunny that one cannot help but laugh
Litost (Czech) – The closest definition is a state of agony and torment created by the sudden sight of one’s own misery.
“As for the meaning of this word, I have looked in vain in other languages for an equivalent, though I find it difficult to imagine how anyone can understand the human soul without it.”
-Milan Kundera, author of The Unbearable Lightness of Being
Tartle (Scottish) – The act of hestitating while introducing someone because you’ve forgotten their name.
Schadenfreude (German) - The pleasure of someone else’s pain.
Fernweh (German) - a longing to be anywhere, simply far away
Wabi-Sabi (Japanese) - a way of living that focuses on finding beauty within the imperfections of life and accepting peacefully the natural cycle of growth and decay.
Dépaysement (French) – The feeling that comes from not being in one’s home country.
L’appel du vide (French) – “The call of the void” is this French expression’s literal translation, but more significantly it’s used to describe the instinctive urge to jump from high places.
Nostalgie de la boue (French) - ”aching for the mud,” wishing you could be off having some heedless romp.
Chantpleure (French) - to sing and cry at the same time.
Ya’aburnee (Arabic) – “You bury me,” a declaration of one’s hope that they’ll die before another person because of how difficult it would be to live without them.
Duende (Spanish) – While originally used to describe a mythical, spritelike entity that possesses humans and creates the feeling of awe of one’s surroundings in nature, its meaning has transitioned into referring to “the mysterious power that a work of art has to deeply move a person.”
Saudade (Portuguese) – refers to the feeling of longing for something or someone that you love and which is lost.
Mokita (kivila, Papua New Guinean) - the truth which no one speaks
Istories me arkoudes (Greek) - narrated events that are so wild and crazy it seems that they can’t possibly be true.
ho’oponopono (Hawaiian) - solving a problem by talking it out
Chemyeon (Korean) - the state of preventing personal embarassment.
Neunchi (Korean) - is a formalized ideal of the sensitivity we probably all hope for but often fail to achieve. Neunchi is the ability to read the sub-text, the implicit messages in a social situation, and then react in a way which preserves the chemyeon of the other person. Oak & Martin cite the example of a teacher who asks a question, then perceiving that the student can’t answer it, deflects the question to another student. This not only saves the first student’s chemyeon, but boosts the (Confucian) authority of the wise teacher and wins student loyalty to their superior.
French has a difference between knowledge of recognition (connaître) and knowledge of understanding (savoir)
l’espirit de l’escalier (french) the feeling after leaving a conversation when you think the of all the things you should have said
waldeinsamkeit -german- the feeling of being alone in the woods
meraki -greek- doing something with soul, creativity and love
gheegle -filipino- the urge to pinch or squeeze something that is unbearably cute
pochemuchka -russian- a person who asks a lot of questions
pena ajena -mexican - the embarrassment you feel watching someone else’s humilitation
cualacino -italian - the mark left on a table by a cold glass
ilunga -tshiluba, congo - a person who is ready to forgive any abuse for the first time, to tolerate it a second time, but never a third time
saudade -portuguese, galician - the feeling one gets when realizing something one once had is lost and can never be had again
sgriobn - gaelic - the itchiness that overcomes the upper lip just before taking a sip of whisky