There are thousands of untranslatable words, each unique to the language which created it, and each perfectly representing a very specific and relatable mood, situation or event. Finding these little treasures is definitely a perk of the job and as we head into the holiday season, we’d love to share our top ten untranslatable words with you.
So, make a cup of something warming and revel in the poetry of these evocative and descriptive words:
Duende (Spanish) – the mysterious power that a work of art possesses to move a person deeply
Cafuné (Brazilian Portuguese) – the action of running one’s fingers tenderly through someone else’s hair
L’appel du vide (French) – the instinctive temptation to jump when at a height (literally “the call of the void”)
Hanyauku (Rukwangali) – the act of walking across warm sand on tiptoes
Hiraeth (Welsh) – homesickness mixed with sadness or loss, a type of longing for one’s homeland or romanticised past
Forelsket (Norwegian) – the indescribable feeling of euphoria when falling in love
Ya’aburnee (Arabic) – although literally meaning “you bury me”, it’s used to declare a hope that your loved one will outlive you because of how unbearable life would be without them
Waldeinsamkeit (German) – the feeling of being alone in the woods, of solitude, of peace and of being connected to nature
Iktsuarpok (Inuit) – the anticipation of expecting a visitor, which drives you to constantly check to see if they’re coming
Age-otori (Japanese) – feeling that you look less attractive after having your hair cut; with the deeper meaning that ‘the best laid plans‘ often don’t work out as intended
And not to forget that word in our title – hyggeligt – perhaps the most apt for this time of year. This Danish adjective encapsulates a warm, cosy, sociable moment which feels safe and comforting. It’s the perfect description of a Christmas card scene of family gathered around a table, enjoying food together in flickering firelight. You’re probably familiar with the related noun: hygge, and its imagery of warm drinks, cosy knits and candlelight. It’s a word which is replicated in both German and Swedish languages too, but not in English.
Nevertheless, we think it’s a delightful sentiment whatever your nationality, and so we wish you all a totally hyggeligt Christmas!