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Sunday, June 23rd, 2013

10 Words You Can’t Find in English

10 Words You Can’t Find in English - InCultureParent via © shutterstock

There are few things that make me feel more alive than learning and speaking other languages. I especially love discovering words and concepts that don’t exist in my own native language. Here’s a list of 10 amazing words that you can’t find in English; perhaps once you’ve studied these you’ll be as enthusiastic as I am about learning a new language.


1.  Tsundoku is a Japanese word most of us can relate to. You know how you get really excited in a bookstore so you buy all these cool books? But then months go by and they just stack up in a pile at home? That’s tsundoku: the act of buying books and not reading them.


2.  Oodul in Tamil is a mild tiff between two people in love, initiated usually to get extra attention from the lover. It’s the kind of silly fight you provoke because you haven’t gotten the attention you want and are really just seeking a reaffirmation of your partner’s love.


3.  Mitläufer, literally ‘with-runner’ in German, is a person who easily gives in to peer pressure without any resistance. It’s exactly what you don’t want your kids to be.


4.  Pachamama in Quechua means “our Mother Earth.” It is not the same word as dirt, earth or terrain. It is a special word designating “Mother Earth.”


5.  Hygge in Danish very roughly translates as cozy, but it’s a much larger concept that encompasses a lot of meanings related to holiday times or special celebrations.


6.  Nazlanmak is the Turkish word for being coy but more than that. It’s pretending to be reluctant or indifferent about something when you are actually eager. Saying no and meaning yes.


7.  Walla in both Hindi and Urdu is an incredibly versatile suffix. Add it to any word and it’s the person who does something—chapalwalla is the person who makes shoes, paniwalla (pani means water), the person who brings you water, and so on.


8.  Gueule in French is the mouth of an animal. But it can be used impolitely to refer to people too. A really rude way of telling someone to be quiet, that takes shut up to a whole other level is “ta gueule.”


9.  Pena ajena in Spanish is the cringing embarrassment you feel when you see someone else embarrassing him or herself.


10.  Samar سمر: in Arabic means keeping someone company at night through conversation, a favorite pastime of every Arab family whose home I have ever had the pleasure of staying in.


Doesn’t this make you want to learn another language? Or like 10? Go for it! Learning a new language is a great way  to use up free time and one that you’ll never regret. Visit to find out more information on language courses they offer.


This post was sponsored by ESL, offering language courses in 220 destinations and 54 countries worldwide. Whether you are interested in becoming fluent in Spanish, or learning French in France, click here to find out more.

© 2013, Stephanie Meade. All rights reserved.

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Stephanie is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of InCultureParent. She has two Moroccan-American daughters (ages 5 and 6), whom she is raising, together with her husband, bilingual in Arabic and English at home, while also introducing Spanish. After many moves worldwide, she currently lives in Berkeley, California.

Leave us a comment!

  1. CommentsOlga   |  Monday, 24 June 2013 at 11:16 am

    Cool article! There are so many words like that thah require a whole description in some languages, are actually one word in others! Like gezellig (lit seems similar to hugge) and lekker (things that you like with your body) Will there be a part 2?

  2. CommentsMelissa   |  Tuesday, 25 June 2013 at 8:05 pm

    Love this! I think my favorite thing about studying other languages is finding words like these ones that are so unique to the cultures from which they come, and that just can’t translate into English (or most any other language). Thanks for the fun read!

  3. CommentsThe Editors   |  Tuesday, 25 June 2013 at 10:40 pm

    Thanks for your comments! I also LOVE discovering words in other languages that you just can’t translate easily- they say so much about the culture as you say Melissa. I hadn’t thought about a part 2 Olga but why not? You’ll have to help!

  4. Commentskanagalakshmi   |  Wednesday, 01 January 2014 at 8:13 pm

    quite interesting …. astonishing explanation. i found a word from tamil and it is a good effort…..

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