In many languages, like Japanese, a single word describes a concept that might require an entire phrase in English.
Like Japanese, Russian uses a different alphabet (Cyrillic) from English and includes numerous words that just don’t translate.
Here are some words for which we wish there was an English equivalent:
While this Russian word roughly translates as emotional pain or melancholy, native speakers continue to claim Americans can’t possibly understand its depth. Vladimir Nabokov, the famous Russian-American author of “Lolita” put it best:
No single word in English renders all the shades of “toska.” At its deepest and most painful, it is a sensation of great spiritual anguish, often without any specific cause. At less morbid levels it is a dull ache of the soul, a longing with nothing to long for, a sick pining, a vague restlessness, mental throes, yearning. In particular cases it may be the desire for somebody of something specific, nostalgia, love-sickness. At the lowest level it grades into ennui, boredom.
In Anton Chekhov’s short story “A Lady with a Dog,” the heroine cries out after sex that she has become a “poshlost” woman.
From 1860 to 1960, Boym also notes, Soviet Russia embarked on a battle against this particular form of banal obscenity.
Post by themedved on /r/doesnottranslate, this Russian noun hints at hyper-consciousness or an objective and analytical mindset. Russian-to-English dictionaries might translate it as “being.” While the word does stem from the Russian verb for “to be,” the exact meaning contains a metaphysical property English can’t relay.
Proz.com, a forum for translations, also defines the word as “enrichment of one’s life.”
The word actually kind of embodies itself, as it has four prefixes including one that repeats itself twice.
Posted by Reddit user Izgoy on /r/doesnottranslate, “bespredel” literally means “without limits or boundaries,” as New York University Slavic professor Eliot Borenstein defined in his book, “Overkill: Sex and Violence In Contemporary Russian Popular Culture.”
The word also conjures images of chaotic violence, and Google translate says it means “lawlessness.” When this state is in place, an ordinary person is at the mercy of somebody behaving without regard to law or structures.
This refers to a person, normally child, who aks a lot of questions.
While English-speakers might use “busybody,” “pochemuchka” doesn’t have the same negative connotation. In fact, parents or grandparents often us it as a term of endearment because of its relation to a children’s book called “Что я ви́дел,” or “What I Saw.”
Just like English, Russian has a slew of words to convey states of drunkenness: various levels, hangovers, and more.
Posted by DragonFilet, it means “that really dry feeling you get in your throat when you wake up after a night of drinking.”
It can also interpreted idiomatically as “the cat pooped in my mouth,” as noted by The_Arioch.
Another drinking-related word, posted by Pavswede, this means “under-over-drunk,” as defined on Proz.com. In other words, someone drank more than he or she should have, but less than he or she could have (or wanted to).
This word describes someone who doesn’t want to do any dirty work. The first part of the word, “belo,” is a variant of “white” in Russian. As noted by the Moscow Times, Russian includes tons of black-and-white meaning good-and-evil references.
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