"Untranslatable" Words You Should Know

We've all experienced the frustrating feeling of wanting to describe something amazing, but not having a word that means what we need it to mean. But who says we have to limit ourselves to English? We might consider some words to be untranslatable from their original languages into English, but that doesn't mean we don't understand the feeling behind them — and sometimes, they're exactly what we need.

And hey, if you don't speak multiple languages, the good news is that these days, it's relatively easy to find the untranslatable words your vocabulary lacks. Often, it's just a quick Google search away — or, you can check out this infographic from discount travel site Cheapflights. It covers one word for every letter of alphabet, giving you 26 new pieces of lingo to choose from the next time you need to… oh, I don't know… describe what it feels like to be alone in the woods (try the German word “waldeinsamkeit”). It happens, right?

Of course, it's worth noting that “untranslatable” is a little bit of a misnomer. It's not that the words mean something that is totally inexpressible in English (or in any other language besides its own); it's just that there isn't a single word that functions similarly. Instead, we translate these words using the phrases that describe what they mean — or, if you happen to be able to demonstrate it using some sort of visual form. Take, for example, “culcaccino”: According to the infographic, it's Italian for “the mark left on a table by a cold glass.” I might translate it to someone else by describing it with that exact phrase — or, if there happens to be a cold glass and a table nearby, by pointing to the mark the glass leaves on the tabletop and saying, “It means that.”

See? It's that!

We've gone over a few of the words on this infographic before, but by virtue of the fact that this time, we're looking at an entire alphabet of untranslatable terms… well, let's just say that there are plenty more where that came from. Check the whole image out below!

Images: cadfael1979, Lauren Paulsen/Flickr; Cheapflights/