13 untranslatable words from foreign languages that English desperately needs

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While English has a solid 171,476 words in use, there’s still not a name for all the things in human experience.

Other languages — French, Hindi, Gaelic — spot things that English just doesn’t hit.

Here are a few of the most amazing words that English lacks.

Craic: Irish for good times, gossip, and the roaring goodwill of a big night out.


No one in Ireland can really define craic, but everybody knows that it means.

If you've ever belted out songs while arm-in-arm with a few of the lads and a few more pints of Guinness, you'll know it too.

Gem├╝tlichkeit: German for chummily kicking it.

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When welcome, comfort, and joy all come together, you've got Gemütlichkeit.

'A soft chair in a coffee shop might be considered 'cosy,'' explains a German language blog. 'But sit in that chair surrounded by close friends and a hot cup of tea, while soft music plays in the background, and that sort of scene is what you'd call gemütlich.'

Hiraeth: Welsh for being homesick for a place that never existed.

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The Portuguese and the Welsh agree on one thing.

And it's longing.

Similar to saudade, hiraeth speaks of longing. But the Welsh is for a place that never was. Alas.

Wabi-Sabi: Japanese for beauty within imperfection.


You can probably blame the Ancient Greeks for the Western obsession with the perfect -- perfect painting, perfect product, perfect body.

Japan -- which has its own troubles with perfectionism -- has a gorgeous history of wabi sabi, an aesthetic sense wherein cracks in clay or wrinkles in skin are signs of beauty.

L'esprit de l'escalier: French for wit that arrives way too late.

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Ever have a zinger come to mind five minutes after getting into a spat with somebody?

The French, of course, have a phrase for it: L'esprit de l'escalier, the wit of the staircase.

Saudade: Portuguese for extreme, melancholic longing.

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If anybody knows about longing, it's sailors.

So it's natural that one of the world's greatest seafaring tongues, Portuguese, has a word for missing your home, your love, and your life that no word in English can touch: Saudade.

Centuries of men dying on their way toward Africa, Asia, and the New World left the culture with a sense of longing that English can't touch.

Fika: Swedish for coffee break.

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Americans eat lunch at their desks and have coffee breaks while walking to the next meeting.

The Swedish, those livers of the good life, know how to break.

The fika, which happens about twice is a day, is when you grab coffee, a pastry, and a conversation. No devices involved.

Luftmensch: Yiddish for dreamer.


Have a friend who's endlessly abstract? Who can't stop staring out of windows, up into the sky or stars? Bumps into things because they're always in their head?

That person is a luftmensch, a German by way of Yiddish word directly translating as air person.

Abbiocco: Italian for drowsiness after a big meal.

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Feasts are important.

And feeling super tired after them is a part of Italian life.

Thus abbiocco, a word for what American so crudely call a 'food coma.'

Tartle: Scottish for that awkwardness when you can't remember someone's name and you have to introduce them.


So you're at a colleague's birthday party. Another colleague is there. With his girlfriend. Whose name you don't remember.

The conversational contortions you pull off to not have to admit that you don't recall their names is called tartling, according to the Scots, and it's one of the more ridiculous things you can do.

Raabta: Hindi for a 'connection with another soul.'

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In American English we may 'vibe' with someone.

But in Hindi, there's a much more elegant word: raabta. It speaks of a soul-level connection.

Appropriately enough, it's also the title of a Bollywood banger.

Duende: Spanish for soul-stirring.

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Goya's 'Saturn Devouring His Son.' As duende as it gets.

Picasso. Dali. Goya. El Greco.

Spaniards don't just paint. They paint hard.

Correspondingly, Spanish has a word for the stirring you feel in your soul when gazing into a great work of art -- duende.

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