Words that don't exist in English

Gile na Gile

Ad Honorem
May 2008
Starting today, simply because it gives me a vague undefinable pleasure (of which descriptive word we of course do not possess) I'm building a collection of non-English words whose meaning cannot be directly conveyed in our language; i.e a set of descriptors which expose the lamentable lacunae in our thought processes.

Or as Wittgenstein once said; "the limits of my language are the limits of my world".

Anyone who wishes to provide links or words from their own language which they think might qualify please feel free to do so:- [Nay, I implore you!]

25 Handy Words That Simply Don?t Exist In English | So Bad So Good

Some of my favourites here -

Taarradhin (Arabic): implies a happy solution for everyone, or “I win. You win.” It’s a way of reconciling without anyone losing face. Arabic has no word for “compromise,” in the sense of reaching an arrangement via struggle and disagreement.

[-Find it hard to believe Arabic has no word for "compromise". Any thoughts?]

Meraki (pronounced may-rah-kee; Greek): Doing something with soul, creativity, or love. It’s when you put something of yourself into what you’re doing.

[Sadly, no - don't think there's an equivalent word for this. God bless the Greeks.]

Gigil (pronounced Gheegle; Filipino): The urge to pinch or squeeze something that is unbearably cute.

[Now I know what to call it ... :)]

Arigata-meiwaku (Japanese): An act someone does for you that you didn’t want to have them do and tried to avoid having them do, but they went ahead anyway, determined to do you a favor, and then things went wrong and caused you a lot of trouble, yet in the end social conventions required you to express gratitude.

[Only in Japan is this possible I'd guess ...]

10 Awesome Words We Don't Have In English TheGloss

Yuanfen - Chinese
The invisible thread said to connect some people, especially romantic couples, determined by fate.

Backpfeifengesicht (German): A face badly in need of a fist

Jayus - Indonesian
A joke told so terribly that it becomes funny.

Von Ranke

Ad Honorem
Nov 2011
Schadenfreude-German for deriving pleasure out of another's misfortune. It seems to be a feature on the forum when some unfortunate commits the unforgiveable sin of a spelling mistake.
Jan 2015
In German, we have the wonderful word doch (dokh).

In English, when someone says "No, it is not", the best reply is "Yes, it is!"

In German, we have the single world doch. However, it only works as a reply to a negative statement. You can't use it as a reply for "The box is empty." But you can use it for "There is nothing in the box." Similar you can't use it to reply to "it's impossible", but to "it can't be done."


Ad Honorem
Aug 2009
Athens, Greece
This is a great topic Gile, so very interesting.

Meraki is indeed a word widely used here and describes a lot of our activities, either by its presence or absence from them. However, one of the most quintessential words to understand the Greek mentality is the word Philotimo, another untranslatable one in English. Phiotimo is viewed as one of the most positive traits of character one may possibly possess, or as one of the most negative deficiencies in its absence. Philotimo means to exceed yourself, give more than required, sometimes to give everything possible, even sacrifice yourself, because your heart or honour tells you so. And of course, without expecting anything in return, except for the joy and satisfaction that you have done right by your heart, honour, and values.

[ame="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philotimo"]Philotimo - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia[/ame]

Filotimo: The most untranslatable and unique Greek virtue

I once wrote about it in a blog entry:
Finally, for those really wanting to delve into the secrets of Greece, the greatest challenge is to try and understand the Greeks themselves, particularly an aspect of their mentality, called filotimo. If one manages to trigger the filotimo of a Greek, he most probably would do anything for him. No command, threat, discipline, intimidation, cajoling, or begging would achieve the same results as the voluntary actions triggered by filotimo. Sadly, this is a lesson most of our politicians have long forgotten.

As to what it means, well, you'll have to find this out by yourselves! Some secrets are earned, not given away. ;):)

A short travel guide to Greece - Historum - History Forums

Another word that I really like is the French word that I use as my alias in the forum: Solidaire, he who feels or shows solidarity. The inspiration for it came from an Albert Camus novel, where the hero emerged from his internal fight being both Solidaire and Solitaire (alone) as his life stance. Excellent book and excellent writer, by the way. I find it strange that this word is not translatable in English; it is not a unique French mindset or word, and I believe it is present in other languages.
Jan 2015
Another wonderful German word: Ach

Lot's of people would argue that it isn't really a word and I would be surprised if it's in any dictionary. It's close to a grunt, but has a specific meaning that I would argue is universally understoof by all fluent German speakers, which makes it a word, as far as I am concerned.
The word ach is an exclamation that simultaniously expresses realization, surprise, confusion, and doubt. :D

When someone explains something to you and you reply with "Ach.", it superficially expresses that you have recieved and understood this new information and are surprised by it. A bit like "I see" or "Oh, really?. But depending on small nuances in how you say it, you also express that you either didn't understood at all, or that you have great doubts that it really is true.

It was pretty much the catch phrase of Loriot, who had by far the funniest German comedy show of all time. Almost all his sketches were about people getting into bizarre situations and freezing up in terrified and completely helpless confusion while trying to not embarass themselves. And the only reply they have to the bizarre things they are getting told is "Ach?" :confused:


Ad Honoris
May 2011
Navan, Ireland
'Cwtch' (pronounced kutch) is a Welsh word with no direct English equivalent. It means a loving hug (but not sexual), lovers would cwtch as would family and friends.

It can also mean a small comfortable room in a house or pub.


Ad Honorem
Sep 2012
An expression in Hindi that typically highlights our Indian attitude to doing anything or even to not doing anything. " Chalta Hai " which can roughly translate as " This is OK " or " It happens, don't bother " or simply "This is the way the world goes, so don't bother " or " This will do, don't try to be a perfectionist."


Ad Honorem
Jul 2014
Lower Styria, Slovenia
Now, I'm not sure, but I was always told this word doesn't exist in English as one single proper word that'd describe the same, have the exactly same meaning.

Tolmun [tolmún] (Slovenian) - a deepened part of an riverbed or the bottom of a lake, where the water makes a mealstrom/whirl.

And of course all Slovene words in dual. Doesn't have them either. :p

Side question, if I may - anybody an idea how to pronounce čmrlj?


Ad Honoris
Jan 2010
♪♬ ♫♪♩
One of my favourite words, from an Inuit laguage, "Iktsuarpok", that describes that feeling of anticipation that leads you to keep looking outside to see if anyone is coming. Or getting online, i would add, to see if some particular one is online too. I'm quite iktsuarpokey myself.


Ad Honoris
Jan 2010
♪♬ ♫♪♩
One of my favourite unique words from my mother language would be "amai", which is mostly used as an exclamation of surprise, astonishment, being impressed,.. I forget.. We say this often. The etymology is unclear, i've read it might come from Portuguese "A madre Deus" or something.

A Canadian friend who was visiting a while ago said she particularly liked our "goh", which is used kinda like a more deliberate "uh" always before a phrase starts, to pause and think about what you're gonna say. It isn't as random as "uh" though, you say it when you know what kind of information you want to transmit, but are looking for the right way to put it.
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