25 Foreign Words And Expressions That Are Missing From The English Language
For bilingual people, it can sometimes feel like expressing oneself in English lacks a certain gusto and emotional weight that other languages just inherently carry. There are also certain apt phrases and descriptive words that just don’t translate to the English language the same way leading to a typical ‘lost in translation’ situation.
One viral AskReddit community thread recently got into the topic with folks sharing the most interesting and artsy words from their languages which just don’t have an equivalent counterpart in English. Scroll to read the best examples and suggestions put forward on the thread which we’ve shared in the gallery below.
In German, we have the word ‘Geborgenheit’ which describes a very specific feeling of feeling cozy and safe and protected. Like you would feel when you’re around loved ones sitting around a fire or when the person you love holds you under the warm covers when it’s raining outside. I tried to explain this to someone the other day and when we googled the translation- it came up with ‘cozyness’ which really doesn’t pay justice to what it actually means.
Charlotte: We have the same word in Dutch. The closest term in English would be “safe and secure”. It’s a feeling you get as a child, sleeping in your parents’ bed during a thunderstorm, or cuddling up with your partner. A feeling of being protected and safe and warm.
My native language is a Native American language called Comanche and isn’t a written language but the word sounds like “chaw-tamaw-tey-quat” and it basically is a socially acceptable way to say “I’m done speaking”
Skadeglädje=German,Schadenfreude=to be happy when something bad happens to other.
Not Who You Think: “Happiness at the misfortune of others.” That IS German! (I know firsthand)
Definitely not my native language, but I love —
>“Kuchisabishii“ is a Japanese term which directly translates to ‘lonely mouth; when you’re not hungry, but you eat because your mouth is lonely.
Japanese has loads of words that require entire sentences to explain in English. My favorite of all time is *tachiyomi*, which means “standing at a newsstand reading something without any intention of paying for it”.
#6 Gigil and Kilig
Gigil? It’s when something’s so cute you get this sort of feeling of violence? I don’t think I’m explaining it right. Kilig is also a similar feeling, but that one is for love; something’s so romantic it gives you goosebumps? Or makes you giddy.
Marisol L. Banks: That word defines the feeling you have when you see a baby so cute and adorable you want to eat them up.
Kalsarikännit in Finnish. Literally “underwear drunk” , or more spesifically, “long john drunk”.
Meaning deliberately getting drunk alone at home in your underpants with zero plans of meeting anyone or going out. I think other nations do this as well, but don’t have a word for it.
Delightfully relaxing and therapeutic at times, slightly concerning if done exessively.
At best a wonderful opportunity to touch base with your self, your life and your deepest thoughts and feelings. And/or watch that one cheesy comedy from 1992 you love but can’t get any of your friends to watch with you because they have standards.
At worst you wake up to an unholy mess accompanied by a killer headache, cheese all over the bed, cryptic messages on ripped up pieces of pizza box cardboard written by you to you all over the kitchen, and have nobody to blame than yourself.
I’ve seen it translated somewhere as “pants drunk”, but actual pants are much too fancy attire for this. For full experience you need to wear your most comfortable, decades old long johns that have holes and a weird stain that somehow never comes off in the wash.
Mis Stake she/her 🇫🇮🇬🇧: Kalsarikännit does not need to be done alone. you can have kalsarikännit with good friends as well
#8 Te Amo and Te Quiero
Simple one. Te amo in Spanish means i love you.
Te quiero means i love you as a friend.
In English you use the same word for different things. You can say i love you to a friend, but i would never use te amo in that case.
XenoMurph: We need a word for “I love you Bread/chocolate/pie”
#9 Different Names For Relatives From Each Parent Side
English doesn’t define cousins as clearly as my native language. We have different names for each parent side, the generation, related by blood or marriage.
Annik Perrot: Étrenner, in French
There is a Japanese term “Komorebi”, for which no English translation exists. It roughly translates as “the scattered light that filters through when sunlight shines through trees”.
I love how some languages are able to describe such beautiful moments in life.
arthbach: This sounds suspiciously like ‘dappled light’; “small patches of light filtered through objects, often trees, and it creates a combination of light and shadows.”
#12 Systerson, Brorson, Systerdotter, Brorsdotter and more
Perhaps not missing per se, but the distinction between uncle from your mothers side or your Fathers side and their kids.
Farbror, morbror, faster, moster.
Systerson, brorson, systerdotter and brorsdotter.
In English all of these words mean uncle, uncle, aunt, aunt, nephew, nephew, niece and niece.
Farbror = Fathers brother
Morbror = Mothers brother
Faster = Fathers sister
Moster = Mothers sister
Systerson = Sisters son
Brorson = Brothers son
Systerdotter = Sisters daughter
Brorsdotter = Brothers daughter
Bec : This would be helpful. It would be useful to have different versions of brother-in-law too, is it by marriage to your spouse or your sibling. The whole firt cousin, second cousin stuff is too much to figure out too.
it has a similar meaning to “miss you” but we have a direct translation for that “senti sua falta”, saudade has more of an emotional feel to it, it’s really hard to explain, it’s deeper than simply missing someone
Btw I’m Brazilian so the language is Portuguese
Andrea Fucciollo: It’s also used to express that nostalgia feeling. You can feel saudade of a long time gone, of some food or taste, of something and so on.
#14 We and We
Dunno if it exists in other languages, but my god we need two versions of ‘we’
we = me and you
we = me and my buddies, but not you
Gatvol (Afrikaans) – can’t be properly translated into anything as everything you try is too tame. Something along the lines of being really fed up but much more expressive
#16 Kolega and Przyjaciel
I miss roles in friendship distinguished in Polish.
“Kolega” is a friend who you like spending time with. Partying or chilling. You socialise and have a good time.
“Przyjaciel” is a friend whom you don’t need to keep in touch or have a good time. But when some bad thing is happening, you know you can call him.
Outwith. It’s a word in Scots but not in English. It means beyond the bounds of something- the nearest English equivalent is ‘outside’ but it doesn’t mean the quite same thing
it describes a place that is far away from civilisation. It means sth like where the wolves f**k.
Ron Man: English has about 4,299,319 words to describe this lol. Boonies, sticks, hills, butt fukc Egypt, boondocks, wilderness, backwoods, middle of nowhere, frontier, hinterlands, backwater… and that’s just me sitting here off the top of my head. No, I have no idea where the Egypt one originates or why, but people must’ve liked it. It’s often abbreviated to BF Egypt. Like, “Sorry I’m late, I had to park way out in BF Egypt”.
Empalagoso (when something is too sweet that you get kinda yucked out)
Sobremesa (relaxing at the dinner table after eating with conversation)
见外 (jiàn wài) – the sentiment is that a good friend is using the same level of politeness with you that you’d expect from a stranger, not someone of your closeness.
Like if your friend forgot their wallet at lunch so you pick up the check, and they promise to make it up to you, you might tell them to stop acting so polite, of course you’re happy to pay for lunch because you’re best friends.
Backpfeifengesicht. “A face in need of a fist”
I’m not a violent person but I appreciate that this word exists.
LizzieBoredom : Or for us dyslexics ‘A fist in need of a face’.
English should definitely have a word that’s not “spicy” or “hot” to describe capsaicin’s flavor/effect on your mouth. “Picante” is the word we have in Spanish for it
Victor Botha : Picante has actually been adopted into the English language because “mild but spicy” is such a clumsy expression.
Sobremesa (Spanish): after a meal when you sit around the table talking.
That’s the best part – why don’t we have a word for it!
(Note: Spanish is not my native language, but I do know quite a bit).
#24 Anna, Akka, Thambi, Thangachi
Different words elder brother, elder sister, younger brother, younger sister. Anna, Akka, Thambi, Thangachi respectively. In my country everyone calls literally everyone else, except family, using these words, regardless of station/class/hierarchy. But really older women are exceptionally called Amma (mother).
Edit: Language name is Tamil.
#25 Two Days After Tomorrow
In my native language
(I am sure in many more) there are terms for the day after tomorrow and the day before yestrday. Like english what the hell. You need that. Bruh, in my language there is a world for TWO days after tomorrow or TWO days before yestrday.
I mean english has a word for throwing someone out of a window but not this. Cmon.
Edit: there is also this great word that is: skršiti se.
It translates somewhere along the lines falling hard/falling abruptly. Idk when you say it in my language it means they fell really funny, but (most of the time didn’t hurt them self). It’s used in a funny context.
Victor Botha: Overmorrow is the English word for the day after tomorrow.