Words that don't have translations in English

Jul 2018
58
Gaa-waabaabiganikaag
Hey everybody!

To be more specific than the title, your favorite words that describe a feeling, or action we have no direct translation for in English. These can be from currently used languages or dead ones throughout history.

Mine is a German word, schadenfreude. It basically means to take pleasure in the misery of others. To me, malicious joy just isn't specific enough even though that's what it would fall under. And that's two words. Malicjoy, Joymalicious? Just doesn't have the same ring to it.

If this topic belongs somewhere else please feel free to move it.
I didn't really think it belongs in Art and Culture its too generic.
 

GogLais

Ad Honorem
Sep 2013
5,471
Wirral
I'd guess many languages have words that don't translate directly into a single English word. There's a Welsh word hiraeth that some say falls into that category. It's a longing or feeling of loss thing but with a bit of poignancy thrown in.
 
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Mar 2017
873
Colorado
My German teacher said he had many friends, but only one person he could call freund. It translates to "friend" but carries a level of intimacy that really can't be expressed in English.

I think a number European languages have a way of expressing respect/familiarity/intimacy that just got shaved off in English. You address you boss one way, your dad another, your friends differently, your wife differently yet. My parents were Europeans and I was trained that way within the limits of English. I still have problems when my boss says "call me Bob" ... or when people older than me want me to use their first names.

My parents lived through WW II. That whole levels-of-familiarity thing might have faded by now.
 
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Jul 2018
58
Gaa-waabaabiganikaag
I'd guess many languages have words that don't translate directly into a single English word. There's a Welsh word hiraeth that some say falls into that category. It's a longing or feeling of loss thing but with a bit of poignancy thrown in.
Interesting, how does it differ from normal nostalgia?
 
Jul 2018
58
Gaa-waabaabiganikaag
My German teacher said he had many friends, but only one person he could call freund. It translates to "friend" but carries a level of intimacy that really can't be expressed in English.

I think a number European languages have a way of expressing respect/familiarity/intimacy that just got shaved off in English. You address you boss one way, your dad another, your friends differently, your wife differently yet. My parents were Europeans and I was trained that way within the limits of English. I still have problems when my boss says "call me Bob" ... or when people older than me want me to use their first names.

My parents lived through WW II. That whole levels-of-familiarity thing might have faded by now.
Societal norms changing our use of language and making some words defunct. Good insight.
 

At Each Kilometer

Ad Honorem
Sep 2012
4,005
Bulgaria
Translation or rather interpretation of an idiom from one language to another. There are numerous examples in every language. For example we have an idiom which literal translation into English is 'to make an elephant out of a fly' and its meaning is 'to exaggerate' Try to translate 'pull my leg' into your native language. Direct translation doesnt work in both cases.

EDIT: A very old joke about machine translations i heard as a teen. An English phrase 'The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak', translated by machine into Russian and back to English. The result 'the vodka is strong but the meat is rotten'. Another example 'Out of sight, out of mind' vs 'blind idiot'
 
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Decembrist

Ad Honorem
Mar 2013
2,701
the Nile to the Euphrates
My German teacher said he had many friends, but only one person he could call freund. It translates to "friend" but carries a level of intimacy that really can't be expressed in English.
Whereas a word "girlfriend" does carry an intimacy level in English, unlike German "Freundin" or Russian "подруга [podruga]".

What should one say to emphasize just the feminine gender of my friend? My female friend, she-friend?
 
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Oct 2015
955
Norway
I find it interesting that there is no Norwegian word for "sir", but that's not really what you asked about.
I like the word "utepils". It means something like "outside beer". It means a beer you drink outside, usually outside pub or cafe, but it can also mean the act of drinking beer outside.
I guess the word says something about our climate.
 
Jul 2018
58
Gaa-waabaabiganikaag
I find it interesting that there is no Norwegian word for "sir", but that's not really what you asked about.
I like the word "utepils". It means something like "outside beer". It means a beer you drink outside, usually outside pub or cafe, but it can also mean the act of drinking beer outside.
I guess the word says something about our climate.
I think the inverse of a question is a perfectly reasonable addition. And I find that interesting too.

And all my beer ends up on the outside too...