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15 Untranslatable Words We Should Be Using in English

Student Work Languages
by Caetano Laprebendere Jun 4, 2014
15 awesomely untranslatable words, along with conversations for context.
1. Lebensmüde

German for “weary of life”

John: I’ve been rather lebensmüde these days. I don’t know what’s wrong.

Johnny: It’s those German lessons you’re taking.

(Luckily the word contains a smiley (umlaut) to cheer you up.)

2. Parea

Greek for “a group of friends that get together to enjoy nothing else but sharing their life experiences, philosophies, values, and ideas”

John: I’m done with going out every weekend. It empties my soul.

Johnny: Let’s get the parea back together! Steve said the same yesterday.

3. Chindogu

Japanese for “a solution to a common problem that’s pretty useless otherwise”

John: Dude, let’s prank Carlos. He left his laptop open! What should we do?

Johnny: Let’s change all his browsers to Internet Explorer!

John: That’s one genius chindogu, Johnny!

4. Badkruka

Swedish for “somebody reluctant to go into a body of water while swimming outdoors”

Johnny: Hurry up, badkruka!

John: I’ll take my time. It’s way too cold for me.

Johnny: Only Scandinavians are allowed to be badkrukas. YOU’RE GOING IN NOW!



5. Chingada

Mexican Spanish for “a hellish, imaginary, faraway place where you send all those who annoy you”

John: Hey, I asked the old guy drinking mezcal. He told me we should definitely visit this place called “la chingada.”

Johnny: Do you even know what that means, John?

John: Not really. It seems to be an off-the-beaten-path sort of place, since it’s not in my guidebook. Hey, look! He just sent that American couple there too!

6. Zapoi

Russian for “two or more days of drunkenness usually involving a journey or waking up in an unexpected place”

Johnny: What did you think of that restaurant?

John: It was all delicious! How did you even find it?

Johnny: Well, I woke up in their dumpster after last week’s epic zapoi, and the food still tasted pretty good, so I figured!

7. Kabelsalat

German for “tangled up cables,” literally “cable-salad”

John: Apparently every single time I put earphones in my pocket, even if it’s just five minutes, they come out impossibly tangled.

Johnny: Yeah, man it’s your pocket chef preparing you his signature kabelsalat.

8. Ikigai

Japanese for “a reason to get up in the morning, a reason to live”

John: Isn’t this just the best guacamole ever?

Johnny: Ahh, fresh avocados, my ikigai.

9. Arbejdsglæde

Danish for “work happiness, the feeling of happiness provoked by a satisfying job”

John: I heard you closed the deal! Congratulations!

Johnny: Thanks! They told me I can go on vacation now, but who needs it with such arbejdsglæde. My job is my vacation!

10. Tüddelig

German for “sweet, elderly, and senile woman”

John: Your mom is so tüddelig! Last night when you left…

Johnny: HEY, stop right there, man. What does that mean?

11. Nekama

Japanese for “a man who pretends to be a woman on the internet”

John: Haha, check this out! My friend George is trolling people as a nekama, and he’s fooling this one guy into a date.

Johnny: Ahahah, what a fool!

12. Cafuné

Brazilian Portuguese for “the act of running your fingers through someone’s hair in a loving way”

John: What happened to that girl Gina? Didn’t you have your first date last night?

Johnny: We did, but as I proceeded to cafuné at the movies her wig came off. Turns out he was a nekama named George, so we aren’t seeing each other anymore. Wait, who was that friend of yours?

John: *grins*

13. Ta’aburnee

Arabic for “you bury me,” meaning one would rather die before the other because the first person wouldn’t be able to live without the second

John: I saw we ran out of food, so I got us chocolate.

Johnny: Ta’aburnee.

14. Uitwaaien

Dutch for “going out for a walk or to the countryside in order to clear one’s mind”

John: I’m sick of the city. If I have to smell the subway one more time…

Johnny:You should take a break. The city’s great — you just overdosed.

John: Yeah, could be. I guess I should go uitwaaien this weekend.

15. Bababa ba?

Filipino for “is it going down?”

Choir of rushing New Yorkers: Bababa ba?

Person inside elevator: *awkwardly closes doors with a blank stare*

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