The incredible words that cannot be translated

This post is also available in: Português

Have you ever heard of those words that cannot be translated? Those words which exist only in a certain language and says a lot about a culture? It does not mean other people do not feel the same thing. It is just that certain actions or feelings are more inherent to some cultures and its language ends up incorporating a new word.

Fernanda looking at a sign in Morocco not understanding

Words that cannot be translated in Brazil

In Brazil, for instance, we feel Saudade“. That is to miss someone or something. Despite having similar translation in other languages, is unique by its intrinsic depth.

The Eskimo or Inuit people

These indigenous people inhabiting the Artic regions of Canada, Alaska, Siberia and Greenland have their own mythology and spirituality. One of the words in their vocabulary that cannot be translated to other languages is “Ayurnamat”, which roughly means “there is no reason to worry about the things that can’t be changed.

How beautiful is that?

Words that cannot be translated in Wales

words that cannot be translated

Recently, we found out about the word “Cwtch” on a Welsh friend’s house, a such strong hug that only exists in the culture of Wales.

By the way, do you believe that it is essential to speak a second language to travel? Look at our article about Language for travel and tell us what you think!

Words that cannot be translated in Armenia

In the case of Armenia, is the “Hiuraserr”, which means “we love our guests”. It was expected that people as receptive and hospitable as the Armenian would have a single word to speak about their guests.

words that cannot be translated
With our Armenian film crew friends that we met in a forest in the north of the country


When we were visiting our dear friend Natália, in Vladmir, Russia, we had an amazing night (one of the many!). But, inevitably, we got too drunk! We woke up the next day with a big hangover just to see her daddy already up, with a big smile and a shot of vodka in his hand saying “Opohmelka”. That means “to drink the same spirit you drank the night before in order to cure your hangover”, or simply the hair of the dog!

words that cannot be translated
With our dear Russian family


And in Japan, famous for its perfection, there is a word that means “to die of so much work”. Yes, there are people who work an absurd number of hours a day until the body cannot take it anymore and die of “Karoshi”.
These are some of the words we got to know during our trips. The English author Ella Frances Sanders launched in 2014 the book “Lost in Translation”. The book shows 50 words without translations. Among them, according to the BBC Brazil  are:

  • Kummerspeck: In German, it literally means “bacon of sorrow”. It refers to “overweight gained after an eating disorder brought about by emotional issues.
  • Wabi-sabi: It is a Japanese derived from Buddhism. It means “to find beauty in imperfections, an acceptance of the cycle of life and death.
  • Pisan zapra: It refers, in Malaysia, to “the time needed to eat a banana”.
  • Mangata: which in Swedish means “the reflection of the moon in water, which looks like a road”.
  • Akihi: Expresses in Hawaii “that oblivion we have so someone gives us an indication of how to get to a place”.
  • Iktsuarpok: which for Eskimos refers to a feeling between patience and anxiety. It is that feeling that makes a person come out and enter, come out and enter, come out and enter, to see if someone is coming.
  • Tsundoku: which in Japanese means “to leave a book unread after buying it, usually stacked with other books not yet read”. Who has never done it…

Do you also know any words without translation?

Mamihlapinatapai: a look between two people, each of whom expects the other to initiate an action they both want, but none is encouraged to initiate (Por Patrícia Techera).