25 Foreign Words And Expressions That Are Missing From The English Language

Published 7 months ago

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. 

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#1 Geborgenheit

Image source: Else1, cottonbro studio

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.

Top Comments:

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.

#2 Chaw-Tamaw-Tey-Quat

Image source: SCP-33005, Alex Green

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”

#3 Skadeglädje

Image source: FiNsKaPiNnAr, LS –

Swedish

Skadeglädje=German,Schadenfreude=to be happy when something bad happens to other.

Top Comments:

Not Who You Think: “Happiness at the misfortune of others.” That IS German! (I know firsthand)

#4 Kuchisabishii

Image source: MOS95B, snowpea&bokchoi

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.

#5 Tachiyomi

Image source: the2belo, Joaquin Carfagna

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

Image source: ClickGrayson, Virginia State Parks

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.

Top Comments:

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.

#7 Kalsarikännit

Image source: Fit_Share_6147, Hauke Musicaloris

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.

Top Comments:

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

Image source: PiIIan, Askar Abayev

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.

Top Comments:

XenoMurph: We need a word for “I love you Bread/chocolate/pie”

#9 Different Names For Relatives From Each Parent Side

Image source: Pretty_Dimension_149, Thomas Quine

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.

#10 Estrenar

Image source: ratonvacilon23, baron valiumFrom Spanish: estrenar (verb): to use something for the first time.

Top Comments:

Annik Perrot: Étrenner, in French

#11 Komorebi

Image source: tipsy_jana, Albin Stageklint

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.

Top Comments:

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

Image source: Malyn_Dredd, Craig Adderley

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

Top Comments:

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.

#13 Saudade

Image source: peddy_D, microlito

“Saudade”
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

Top Comments:

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

Image source: bee-sting, Kampus Production

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

#15 Gatvol

Image source: TheInvisibleWun, a loves dc

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

Image source: CodNo503, Alena Darmel

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.

#17 Outwith

Image source: Grazza123, Tobin

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

#18 Vukojebina

Image source: Brilliant_Novel_921, Jiri Brozovsky

Croatian: vukojebina

it describes a place that is far away from civilisation. It means sth like where the wolves f**k.

Top Comments:

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”.

#19 Empalagoso

Image source: chrispg26, kbxxus

Empalagoso (when something is too sweet that you get kinda yucked out)

Sobremesa (relaxing at the dinner table after eating with conversation)

Cabron/a

#20 见外

Image source: femmestem, Kristoffer Trolle

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.

#21 Backpfeifengesicht

Image source: No_Tamanegi, dion gillard

Backpfeifengesicht. “A face in need of a fist”

I’m not a violent person but I appreciate that this word exists.

Top Comments:

LizzieBoredom : Or for us dyslexics ‘A fist in need of a face’.

#22 Picante

Image source: Nonirs, Rool Paap

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

Top Comments:

Victor Botha : Picante has actually been adopted into the English language because “mild but spicy” is such a clumsy expression.

 

#23 Sobremesa

Image source: KommieKoala, Daniel Lobo

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

Image source: redefined_simplersci, Public.Resource.Org

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

Image source: Living_Advice5420, Dafne Cholet

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.

Top Comments:

Victor Botha: Overmorrow is the English word for the day after tomorrow.

Shanilou Perera

Shanilou has always loved reading and learning about the world we live in. While she enjoys fictional books and stories just as much, since childhood she was especially fascinated by encyclopaedias and strangely enough, self-help books. As a kid, she spent most of her time consuming as much knowledge as she could get her hands on and could always be found at the library. Now, she still enjoys finding out about all the amazing things that surround us in our day-to-day lives and is blessed to be able to write about them to share with the whole world as a profession.

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English, english language, language, languages, lost in translation, native language, translation
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