Relationship Words You Wish Existed In English

by Seth Millstein

As part of an ongoing series, we're going to look at helpful words that, unfortunately, don't have any English counterparts. Today's topic: Words about relationships.

Mamihlapinatapei (Yagan): You know when you’re with a love interest, and both of you want to make a move, but neither of you has the guts? Mamihlapinatapei is the look you share with the other person in that moment of reluctance.

Retrouvailles (French): This is the specific type of happiness you feel after seeing somebody for the first time after a long period of absence.

Illunga (Bantu): In a 2004 survey of 1,000 linguists, this was identified as the most difficult word to translate into English. It means a person who will forgive any abuse the first time, tolerate it the second time, but walk away the third time. It’s more than just a “fool me once” equivalent; the focus here is on the progression of tolerance into line-drawing, and the emotional states that accompany each stage.

Koi No Yokan (Japanese): A more realistic version of “love at first sight,” this is the sensation upon first meeting someone that you’ll eventually fall in love with them.

Onsra (Boro): We’re getting into somber territory here: This means “to love for the last time.”

Ya’aburnee (Arabic): Another somewhat morbid term, this means that you’d rather die than live without your partner. Literally, it translates to “you bury me.”

Saudade (Portuguese): A melancholic longing for a long lost love, with the implication that they are either lost forever or — more hauntingly — that they may never have existed to begin with.

Cafuné (Brazilian Portuguese): Back in happier territory: This means tenderly running your fingers through somebody’s hair.

Iktsuarpok (Inuit): To pop your head outside and check to see if your loved on is coming. If only there was a version that applied to obsessively checking your text messages. The 17-year-old version of me would certainly like that.

Torschlusspanik (German): A general term for being left behind, this often refers specifically to the anxiety women who want children feel as they get older without having conceived.

La Douleur Exquise (French): The emotional anguish that comes from having an unrequited love.

Razbliuto (Russian): The sentimental feeling you get about someone you used to love, but longer do.

Aware (Japanese): The bittersweet feeling that accompanies fleeting moments of beauty that are transcendent but ephemeral.

Forelsket (Norwegian): The euphoria you experience when you first start falling in love with someone. The closest English approximation would probably be New Relationship Energy, which isn't nearly as eloquent.

Send this to someone you’re at a loss for words for, and happy lovin'.