There’s no question that English is a language full of useful expressions, interesting idioms and fun slang words.
But there are some situations, actions and emotions that are so specific that English just doesn’t have the vocabulary to effectively describe them. Luckily, there are many meaningful words in other languages that perfectly describe what English can’t.
In this post, we’re taking a look at some of the most unique words in different languages. You probably didn’t even realize these beautiful foreign words were missing from your life—but you’ll wonder how you ever got by without them!
Not everything you do needs to be rushed to completion. Sometimes it’s better to do things in a slow, calm and relaxed way while enjoying the experience or process. That’s the idea behind the Bulgarian word ailyak—take your time and enjoy the ride!
Have you ever met up with someone you hadn’t seen in a long time and just felt so good chatting and catching up with them? In Basque, that specific feeling of happiness is known as aspaldiko.
It’s natural to feel envious of someone who seems to have everything going for them—sometimes you just can’t help it. But that’s not what firgun is about! On the contrary, this Hebrew word conveys a genuine feeling of happiness about someone else’s good fortune.
If you’ve ever had the pleasure of wandering aimlessly—yet purposefully—through a city, actively observing your surroundings in an almost philosophical way, you understand the meaning of the word flâner. This term goes far beyond simply dawdling or taking a walk and conveys a very French way of life.
Have you ever been in love? If so, you’ve probably experienced forelsket. This Norwegian term describes the overwhelmingly happy feeling you get when you first begin to fall in love with someone.
If you’re not a morning person, this probably isn’t something you’ve ever experienced. But for others, gökotta—waking up with the sunrise specifically to go outside and hear the birds singing as daylight breaks—is a blissful way to start the day.
You know that cozy, comfortable and familiar atmosphere that brings a sense of contentment—like the feeling you get when you’re hanging out with good friends and there’s nowhere you’d rather be? That is what’s known in Danish as hyggelig.
This is an Inuit word that most of us can relate to: Iktsuarpok describes the way you feel when you’re waiting for someone to show up; it’s the anticipation, even impatience, that comes over you as you check if the person you’re waiting for has arrived yet.
Picture it: You’re hiking through the woods, you look up and you see rays of sunlight filtering through the leaves of the trees. That beautiful, scattered light is what’s known in Japanese as komorebi.
Are you someone who derives joy from life’s simple daily pleasures? Do you feel a happy sense of connectedness to the universe? If you answered “yes,” then you know the meaning of the Serbian term merak.
The pleasure of dining with friends and companions doesn’t have to end when the meal is finished! The untranslatable Spanish concept of sobremesa is all about sitting at a table after everyone’s eaten, relaxing and conversing with those you shared a meal with.
We can sometimes get so caught up in the idea that we need to attain perfection in life (just check Instagram if you don’t know what we mean). But wabi-sabi rejects that notion: It’s the idea that we should not only accept, but appreciate the beauty that comes from imperfection, impermanence and simplicity.
Get inspired by foreign words with beautiful meanings
For all of its advantages, English isn’t the be-all and end-all when it comes to describing the world around us. Just look beyond your everyday expressions and you’ll discover tons of inspirational words in other languages that you can incorporate into your vocabulary.
Andrea is a Canadian freelance writer and editor specializing in English, e-learning, EdTech, and SaaS. She has a background as an ESL teacher in beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia. In her free time, Andrea loves hanging out with her husband and children, creating recipes in the kitchen, and reading fiction. She also loves camping and jumping into lakes whenever possible. Learn more about Andrea on LinkedIn or check out her website.