Untranslatable words for saying how you feel in other languages

You remember the joy you felt when you meet someone you haven’t seen in a long time? That’s called Gjensynsglede in Norwegian (here’s the pronunciation in case you want to try).

Tim Lomas, professor of psychology of the University of East London, has assembled a list of untranslatable words that refer to well-being concepts in non-English languages.

Expanding your emotional vocabulary can help you increase your level of emotional granularity.

Here’s a selection of the most interesting ones.

  • Sati/smṛti (स्मतृि). Pāli/ Sanskrit / n. / smrɪˈtiː / smrih-tee. Lit. ‘recollection’ or ‘remembrance’; mindfulness/awareness of the present moment.
  • Arbejdsglæde. Danish / n. / ˈɑː.baɪd̪ʱsˌglɪl / ar-bides-glil. Lit. work gladness/joy; pleasure/satisfaction derived from work.
  • Peiskos. Norwegian / n. / paɪs.kɔːs / piys-kors. Lit. ‘fireplace coziness, sitting in front of a crackling fireplace enjoying the warmth.
  • Hugfanginn. Icelandic / adj. / ˈhuː.fʌŋ.gɪn / hoo-fun-gin. Lit. ‘mind-captured’, to be charmed or fascinated by someone/something.
  • Sanuk (สนุก). Thai / n. / sæ.nʊk / sah-nook. To have a good time; to have fun, not in a frivolous way, but rather in a way imbued with satisfaction, pleasure, and value.
  • Livsnjutare. Swedish / n. / ˈliːf.sɘˌnjuːtɑ.reɪ / leef-suh-nyoo-ta-rey. Bon vivant; someone who loves life and lives it to the full.
  • Krasosmutněn. Czech / n. /ˈkra.soˌsmut.ɲɛˌɲiː/ krra-soh-smut-niyeh-niyee. Beautiful sadness; joyful blues.
  • Qarrtsiluni. Inuktitut, Inuktitut / v. / kʌːrʒ.sɪ.luːnɪ / kartz-sih-loo-nih. Sitting together in the darkness, perhaps expectantly (e.g., waiting for something to happen or to ‘burst forth’); the strange quiet before a momentous event.
  • Jīng shū (驚輸). Chinese / n. / ʤɪŋ.ʃu / jing-shoo / aka kiasu (Hokkien). Fear of losing or missing out (FOMO); can denote a selfish, grasping attitude.
  • Weinseelig. German / adj. / vain.zeːliːɡ / viyn-zee-leeg. Lit. wine (Wein) soulfulness or feeling (Seelig); merriment brought on by intoxication through drinking wine.
  • Flygskam. Swedish / n. / fluːg.skʌm / floog-skum. ‘Flight shame’; being ashamed or embarrassed to fly because of its negative impact on the environment.
  • Iaidō (居合道). Japanese / n. / iːɑiːdəʊ / ee-aee-doh. The way of mental presence and immediate reaction; a swodfighting martial art that emphasizes being aware and capable of quickly drawing the sword and responding to a sudden attack.
  • Ondinnonk. Iroquoian / n. / ɒn.diːnuːnk / on-dee-noonk. The secret, innermost desires or wishes of the soul (e.g., as revealed in dreams).
  • Brabbag. Gaelic (Manx) / n. / bræ.væg / brah-vag. The act (and enjoyment) of warming the back of one’s legs in front of the fire.
  • Téng (疼). Chinese / n. / tɤŋ / tung. To love dearly and intensely; love intermingled with worry and ́ hurt; often refers specifically to bonds between parents and children.
  • Onsra. Boro / v. / ˈʌns.rɑː / uhns-rah. To love for the last time; the feeling that love won’t last.
  • Pittiarniq. Inuktitut / n. / pɪt.ɪɑːniːk / pih-tee-ah-neek. Loving-kindness; being kind and good.
  • retrouvailles (French), expressing the joy people feel after meeting loved ones again after a long time apart

Which one’s your favorite?

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