Untranslatable Words

Have you ever had a feeling or thought that you can’t quite articulate? Maybe the word doesn’t come to mind, or you just can’t think of the right way to say it. Well it probably exists, it’s just in another language.

There are many forms of expression for experiences, moments or emotions that encompass what it means to be human. When things get “lost in translation”, oftentimes it’s simply because it’s a real challenge to capture the essence of a word’s meaning in another language. That’s why we love the art of transcreation, because it’s the best way to adapt ideas into a way that people from other countries can understand.

We’ve compiled our top 10 favorite “untranslatable” words from all over the world:


1. Tartle – Scots

This word practically sounds like what it means: the panicky hesitation that occurs right before you have to introduce someone whose name that you’ve forgotten.

2. Iktsuarpok – Inuit

 That feeling of anticipation when you’re anxiously awaiting for someone to arrive at your house, pacing around and checking your watch every minute.

3. Mencolek – Indonesian

You know when someone taps you on the shoulder and you turn and they aren’t there? Then you turn back around just to see someone grinning at you because they tricked you? This is called mencolek.

4. L’esprit de l’escalier – French

Stairwell wit. Thinking of a great response or comeback, but only after the moment has passed.

5. Bilita MpashBantu

The opposite of a nightmare, an incredible and pleasant dream.

6. Parea – Greek

A group of friends who gather regularly to share their experiences in life and their philosophies, values and ideas. A stage of development of friendships and growth of the human spirit.

7. Hiraeth – Welsh

A feeling of homesickness for a home that you can’t return to, or that never existed. A combination of longing, nostalgia and yearning that may not go away even when you return to the place you’re thinking of.

8. Schadenfreude – German

 A feeling of pleasure that comes from seeing or hearing about the troubles of other people. Misery loves company!

9. Razbliuto – Russian

 A word for the almost sad and nostalgic feeling that you have towards someone you once loved but no longer do.

10. Goya – Urdu

 When you’re transported into another world through powerful storytelling in such that it becomes, well, real.

If you have any untranslatable words you think we missed, send it on over to interthoughts@interecho.com!

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