Untranslatable words: Part 2

14/05/2020 | Marketing Team

Some languages are unable to capture the true meaning of a word when it has been translated from another language. These are known as untranslatable words. However, some say that no word is ever completely untranslatable. Even if a word lacks an exact equivalent in English, its meaning can usually be conveyed in a few words or at least a few sentences. Whatever your viewpoint is, there is no denying that these ‘untranslatable’ words are extremely interesting. Below we will share with you some more of our favourite untranslatable words that have no singular equivalent in English:


Duende (Spanish) 

Our first untranslatable word comes from the Spanish language. ‘Duende’ refers to the mysterious power that a work of art has to move someone emotionally. 

Untranslatable words

Hanafubuki (Japanese)

Next up is a lovely Japanese word which describes the scene where the petals from the cherry blossom tree begin to fall on a windy day. ‘Hanafubuki’ is therefore used to describe a storm created by the cherry blossom.

Meriggiare (Italian)

Meriggiare is our next untranslatable word. It is an Italian word that refers to the act of resting in the shade during the hottest hours of the afternoon.

加油 – jiā​ yóu (Chinese)

The next word we thought we’d share is the Chinese word 加油 – jiā​ yóu. This word literally translates to ‘add oil’ but means much more than that as it is used in situations that require encouragement and to cheer someone on to do their best!
German word

Fahrvergnügen (German)

Fahrvergnügen is another word that has no singular equivalent in English. Fahrvergnügen is a German word literally translates to ‘driving-pleasure’ and refers to the joy of driving.


Akihi (Hawaiian) 

Akihi is a word that comes from the Hawaiian language. ‘Akihi’ is used to describe the forgetfulness felt after being given directions, something we think we can all relate to at some point in our lives! Fika

Fika (Swedish)

Taken from the Swedish language, ‘Fika’ is a word that is used to describe making time for friends and colleagues during the working day by having a cup of tea or coffee and a little something to eat. Flaner

Flâner (French)

The next untranslatable word is taken from the French language. ‘Flâner’ describes the act of leisurely strolling the streets of Paris with no destination!


Tokka (Finnish)

Our final word in this blog is taken from the Finnish language, ‘Tokka’ is used to describe a large herd of reindeer!

For more untranslatable words, please read part 1 of our Untranslatable Words blog series: https://www.languageinsight.com/blog/2019/untranslatable-words/

One Reply to “Untranslatable words: Part 2”

  1. Propongo que “Duende”, ese poder misterioso que tiene una obra de arte de mover a alguien (anímicamente), se traduce al inglés como charm. Es un encanto. Lo confirma Merrian-Webster’s Spanish-English Dictionary. Duende. 2 ENCANTO: magic, charm <una bailarina que tiene duende: a dancer with a certain magic.
    A mayor abundamiento, Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition, enseña que charm es “to affect by or as if by magic: COMPEL b : to please, soothe or delight by compelling attraction ” y “to have the effect of a charm”.
    The painting has a certain charm that enchanted our visitors, as does our hostess whose manner attracted the gentleman and compelled him to buy the work. Whether he was enchanted more by the painting or by our hostess, I can’t say.
    En la mudanza, dejé a María Moliner en mi oficina México. ¡Ya que pase la cuarentena para pasar a la librería por otro ejemplar! Me dicen en la bella sucursal Mérida de Porrúa que no lo tienen pero que lo pueden pedir y que lo hay en uno o dos tomos. ¿Cuál será la diferencia? Solo he tenido el de dos tomos. Para un tomo, sería en letra más pequeña y papel más fino y delicado. ¿Alguien ha visto cuál será la diferencia?

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