Fun Words and Phrases That You Can’t Translate to English
English is one of the most extensive languages with over 600,00 words – but it still lacks proper translations for some interesting words and phrases in other languages.
There are lots of terms in different languages that don’t have a direct translation in English. Whether looking at Spanish, French, or German, some words are just more fun to use in their native languages.
Untranslatable Words in Spanish
Spanish culture influences a lot of the Spanish language, so there are many terms used to reflect local lifestyles. Some of the words that you try to translate into English might not have a direct translation but make perfect sense when spoken in context.
A few fun Spanish words that don’t translate to English are:
Madrugar and trasnochar are opposites – madrugar describes someone who wakes up early in the morning; trasnochar describes someone who stays up all night. The closest English phrases for these words are calling someone an early bird or night owl, respectively.
Tocayo is an interesting phenomenon when you meet someone who has your same first name. You might have a lot of tocayos if you have a common name, but it’s always shocking if you have a unique name.
Sobremesa is one of those words derived from the Spanish culture – it describes a scenario when you stay at the table with friends and family after you eat to socialize.
Untranslatable Words in French
French is a beautiful language spoken around the world, but Paris is considered the original for the language standard. Many words and phrases in the language derive from poetic interpretations of life in Paris that are commonly used today.
A couple of fun French words that don’t have direct English translations are:
- L’esprit d’escalier
We’ve all experienced l’esprit d’escalier, but until now, you probably didn’t know that there was a phrase for it. The phrase describes the moment when you think of a comeback to a joke after walking away – it seems that it’s when we’re most witty.
Paris is a direct inspiration for the French word flâneur. The word describes someone who wanders around a city to enjoy the city ambiance instead of having a specific purpose or direction. It’s the perfect way to experience a city as beautiful as Paris.
Untranslatable Words in German
Believe it or not, German is a part of the same language tree as English, with both languages deriving from similar origins. Theoretically, it should mean that the languages have a lot in common, but there are plenty of German words that don’t translate quite so well in English.
Some of the fun German words that you can’t translate in English are:
Wanderlust is a trendy word, and you’ve undoubtedly heard it by now, especially if you like to travel. Wanderlust is actually a German word that describes having a strong urge to travel. We’ve since adopted it into English since we all get those urges.
Growing up, didn’t you look forward to having the whole house to yourself after your parents leave? In English, we call it a teenager’s dream; in German, the word sturmfrei sums up the entire scenario.
Practicing your pronunciation for the word verschlimmbessern will result in the meaning of it – when you try to improve something but end up making it worst. Some things are better off left as-is.
Have you been in either of these situations and searched for the perfect word to sum it all up?
Let us know in the comments your favorite untranslatable word that you can add to your vocabulary!