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10 fun untranslatable words

Updated: Jul 2

There are roughly 6.500 languages in the world. They help us communicate and share our emotions, opinions or ideas. However, the cultural, grammatical and semantical differences between them often make some words or ideas get lost in translation.

Let's take a closer look to some untranslatable words from all over the world.

(1) Samar (سمر) – Have you ever found yourself staying up late after the sun has gone down and enjoying your conversations with friends? That's what samar is all about. The word is derived from the Hebrew name Shamar which means 'to preserve' or 'to guard'.

(2) Culaccino - We all know these lightly-colored marks, typically in the shape of rings that are caused by the bottoms of cold glasses, hot plates or mugs on a wooden table. Well, Italian has a word for them. The fun part is that the 'culaccino' is derived from the Italian word 'culo' (buttock) as these marks are caused by the bottoms of the glasses.

(3) AilyakAilyak is a beautiful Bulgarian term describing a 'take it easy' attitude. It's something like the art of doing everything calmly and without pressure, while enjoying the experience. Mindfulness at its best.

(4) Ré nao (热闹) – The Chinese word ré nao is usually translated as ‘lively’ or ‘bustling'. It usually refers to a fun, lively place that has such a powerful vibe that makes everyone want to be there.

(5) Arbejdsglæde – This Danish word can be translated as ‘job joy’, ‘job satisfaction’ or ‘happiness at work.’ It basically describes the sense of happiness, fulfilment, and satisfaction you get from having a great job.

(6) DépaysementDépaysement (French) is a feeling of restlessness that comes up when one is away from their home country. It is often accompanied by a culture shock and the sense that one doesn't belong.

(7) Leiliviskaja – This Estonian word describes a person who throws water on hot rocks to make more steam at a sauna. This is the perfect example of culture being reflected in a language. Who would need a word for that in a country where it's always sunny and warm?

(8) Yakamoz - This Turkish word describes the moonlight when shining on the sea. Fun fact: Yakamoz was voted as the most beautiful word in the world by the German Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations in 2007. Among the 2500 words participating in the competition, Yakamoz took the first place. The Chinese word “hu lu” (snore) and the African Baganda tribe’s word “volongoto” (chaotic) took the second and third place respectively.

(9) Drachenfutter – This German word means ‘dragon food’. It describes a gift (chocolate, flowers or other presents) one might pick up for their partner on the way home to apologise after having done something unthoughtful.

(10) Gluggaveður – This beautiful Icelandic word can be translated as 'window-weather'. It describes the weather that's pleasant to look at through a window, but it's not nice to be out with.

Are there any other untranslatable words in your language?

Get in touch and share all your favorite untranslatable words!

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