8 Exquisitely, Untranslatable Words

Linguistic and cultural varieties provide us a glimpse of how countries have different perceptions of the world. These dissimilitudes are reflected in their usage of verbal and nonverbal speech.

Captivated emotions, circumstances, and ideas lead to intellectual and speech gaps. Some feelings or concepts in another language just do not have direct translations and meanings.

Here are some of the most beautiful and untranslatable words.

1. Schadenfreude (German)


Schadenfreude (noun) is the pleasurable feeling derived from other people’s misfortunes. It is derived from Schaden – which means damage, and Freude – which means joy.

People manifest schadenfreude when they are pleased in other people’s sadness or misery. For instance, schadenfreude occurs when a lady experiences sheer happiness upon knowing that his ex-boyfriend lost his job.

No matter how negative as it may seem, Schadenfreude has its joys and comforts. It reflects our natural desire for equality, yet we live in a status-conscious society; Schadenfreude’s comforts and discomforts exude our survival instincts – the need to protect our own circles, the desire to dominate others, the comforting feeling of superiority, and the constant anxiety of being at a lower position.

2. Saudade (Portueguese)

Saudade can be described as melancholic yearning but also the comforting feeling of having to felt such memories. It can be explained as the emotional feeling of presence in absence.

It can be felt when one remembers joyful memories with those who departed. Your longing for your dead relative is quenched by how you evoke powerful memories which made you feel his presence for a short time, yet you know that he will never come back again. Saudade can also be applied when you miss your friend who’s on vacation but you are comforted by the fact that she will return.

Oddly, Saudade has a beautiful impact in our lives. Life cannot be thrilling or enlightened without sadness and sorrow. In some cultures, sadness allows personal connections with oneself; internal peacefulness promotes critical thinking and encourages creativity to flow.

It is within our sadness that we can find joy and contentment.

3. Cafune (Portuegese)


Cafune can be roughly translated as the act of running one’s fingers through someone’s hair. Touch is one of the most intimte way to show love and passion. People often experience a zen-like state when someone plays with their hair.

Cafune’s lexical beauty can be explained in its trans-formative feeling. People are naturally inclined to pleasantly react at head massage because of the multiple stimulation of nerve endings.

In literature, hair is depicted as a sign of femininity and love.  In the Gift of the Magi by O. Henry, Della sacrificed her satin-like hair to purchase a present for her husband Jim – the ultimate sacrifice she could commit for the husband she devotes herself to.

4. Lagom (Swedish)


Lagom can be interpreted as having adequate abundance – not having too little or too much. It is thought to be the key to finding happiness and inner contentment. For the Swedes, taking a morning dip in a cool lake or pond is a pre-requisite to their morning coffee; a humbling and soothing feelilng of being touched by the coolness of the water and carressed by the warmth of the Nordic sun.

Living a minimalistic lifestyle is also a manifestation of Lagom. Embodying the capsule-wardrobe philosophy by investing on sophisticated, high-quality, verssatile pieces instead of the popular fashion takes stess away by muixing form and function.

5. Kilig (Filipino)


Kilig can be described as being in an intense state of giddyness. It is this feeling when you received an unexpected text message from your crush, when you boyfriend surprises you on your birthday, or it could be an intense, butterfly-in-gut feeling you get in the midst of a romantic encounter.

Kilig is not limited to your romantic partner, it can be your tickled pink feeling when you see the movie star you are crushing on. Basically, kilig is the adventurous, thrilling, captivating, and exhilirating feeling of a romantic encounter.

It is one of those cultural feelings only recognized when you feel it, yet no words or intense moods could have precisely described such emotions.

6. Fernweh (German)


Fernweh is the superlative Eastern European cousin of the English term, “Wanderlust.” Fernweh is the desire to constantly travel to far-away lands. It evokes a feeling of homesickness to a place that you have never been to before. For instance, its as if you feel an intense connection with Sweden including its local culture, food, art scene, lifestyles, weather, and even fashion.

The only problem is that you have never been to Sweden or any Nordic country before. Yet the urge is so strong, you get intensely excited whenever an airline emails you on the latest Nordic flights or when cruise ships update you with their Nordic Cruise specials.

7. Fargin (Yiddish)


Fargin is a Yiddish term which refers to a person’s act of wholeheartedly appreciating the success of other people.

Feeling good for someone generates an abundant feeling. It also makes you feel good about yourself and other people. Sometimes, validation is the strongest thing that can keep us going. Just look at the level of grit, the intensity of hard work, and the painful sacrifices that other people committed because of their drive to succeed. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to know that people would be happy for all your achievements?

In the long run, fargin promotes self-acceptance, evoking positivity and allowing you to grow your network of people beyond your usual circles.

8. Meraki (Arabic)


Passion, power, and productivity are the terms related to Meraki. It is your own way of concentrating and putting your heart on things that greatly matter to you. It somehow embodies the adage, “if you love your work, you never have to work a day in your life.”

Meraki is the type of dedication that goes beyond what is expected from you, it is the feeling of being able to accomplish something that deeply matters to your psychological well-being.

That said, Meraki is essential to spiritual growth. A source of eternal satisfaction and constant motivation for those who practice it.

In conclusion, studying these words gives you different perspectives to how other cultures and people positively perceive our beautiful world. There are still so many languages and words to study, so find your own magic.

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