Top 10 Awesomely Untranslatable Words and Their Meanings

Your stupid jayus made my favorite googly start to tartle. Oh, really? What?

Schadenfreude. Shemomedjamo. Iktsuarpok. Myötähäpeä. Every language has them, and they’re always trouble. They’re the “untranslatables,” and what they mean is just too much for other languages to capture in one word.

Some languages, like Turkish, are structured to have longer words. Take gumusservi, which translates to “the light of the moon as it shines upon the water.” And muvaffakiyetsizleştiricileştiriveremeyebileceklerimizdenmişsinizcesine means “as though you are from those we may not be able to easily make a maker of unsuccessful ones.” Um, yeah, moving right along (that’s the longest word in Turkish by the way).

There are plenty of untranslatables in English too. Global polls of language professionals have given top prizes to bumf, chuffed, googly, serendipity, gobbledegook and kitsch. Some English untranslatables are taken from German, some from Persian and many have no known origin. Hell, some of them wouldn’t even “translate” into different versions of English!

So let’s take a look at some of Voxy’s favorite untranslatables and their meanings:

Prozvonit (Czech) – to call a mobile phone and let it ring once, so that the other person will call back, saving the first caller money

Drachenfutter (German) – “dragon fodder,” a type of gift German husbands bestow on their wives when they’ve stayed out late or have otherwise engaged in inappropriate behavior

Shvitzer (Yiddish) – Someone who sweats a lot, especially a nervous seducer

Tartle (Scottish) – To hesitate while introducing someone due to having forgotten his/her name

Ilunga (Southwest Congo) – a person who is ready to forgive and forget any first abuse, tolerate it the second time, but never forgive nor tolerate on the third offense

Iktsuarpok (Inuit) – To go outside to check if anyone is coming

Mamihlapinatapai (Yagan) – The wordless, yet meaningful look shared by two people who both desire to initiate something but are both reluctant to start.

Shemomedjamo (Georgian) – To continue eating food even though you’re already full, just because you like the taste of the food so much

Tingo (Pascuense) – The act of taking objects one desires from the house of a friend by gradually borrowing all of them

Myötähäpeä (Finnish) – a shared sense of shame