Some experts believe that no other language other than the English has as many words – in fact, the English language is counting more than one million words. Out of the around 6.000 spoken languages on Earth, it is easy to consider that the English language will have a word for everything right? Well, apparently it doesn’t.
According to Babbel: ‘since all of the spoken languages provide slightly different ways of seeing the world, no one language can perfectly encapsulate the entire human experience. Conversely, every language on Earth contains certain words that don’t exist in any other language.
These linguistic gems can certainly be defined, but they cannot be directly translated. You might say that you “put your heart and soul” into something, but the Greeks simply call this kind of passion for what you do μεράκι (meraki).’
Untranslated words are partially beautiful because they highlight the rich cultural diversity of the world. ‘Geography, climate, cuisine, religion, history and humor are just some of the factors that lead every language to invent such unique and specific words – the outliers of the human experience.’
Babel composed some of the words across the globe that can not be translated in English and presented them on their official website. Here are a few:
– abbiocco (Italian)noun: that sleepy feeling you get after a big meal
Everyone has succumbed to drowsiness after a meal at one time or another, but only the Italians have enshrined the phenomenon in a single word. When you wish you could take a nap after lunch, you’re “having the abbiocco” (avere l’abbiocco).
– desenrascanço (Portuguese)noun: the ability to improvise a quick solution
Desenrascanço is the M.O. of any high-functioning procrastinator. Not only does it mean to solve a problem or complete a task, it means doing so with a completely improvised solution.
– hyggelig (Danish)adj: comfy, cozy; intimate; contented
Do you ever wish there was one word to combine everything snuggly, safe, friendly and caring? The Danes have you covered with hyggelig. The word is used so often in daily life that many Danes consider it part of the national character.
– utepils (Norwegian)noun: a beer you drink outside
Norwegians must endure a long, dark winter before they can enjoy the brilliant, but brief, summer. So a beer that you can drink outside, while absorbing the sun’s glorious rays, is not just any old beer.
– verschlimmbessern (German)verb: to make something worse when trying to improve it
We’ve all done this before: by trying to fix a small problem we create a bigger problem. Perhaps you tried to repair a flat tire on your bike, and now the wheel won’t turn?
– yakamoz (Turkish) and mångata (Swedish) noun: the reflection of moonlight on water
No matter which language you speak, from time to time you probably admire the moon’s reflection on a body of water. But unless you’re Turkish or Swedish it’s impossible to describe this beauty with a single word. The Swedish mångata literally translates to “moon-road”, an aptly poetic description.
Turkish also has a very specific word, gümüşservi, but it’s not really used in everyday speech. It’s far more common to call the moon’s reflection on water yakamoz, which can be used to describe any kind of light reflecting on water, or even the sparkle of fish.
Are there any unique words in your native language that you would like to share with us?