10 untranslatable words from around the world

Is it time there was an English translation for 'a joke so unfunny you can't help but laugh'?

Olivia Blair
Saturday 24 October 2015 12:19 BST
Some foreign words have no English equivalent
Some foreign words have no English equivalent (Emma Block)

It may come as a surprise that despite the increasingly globalised society we live in and the fact that learning foreign languages are encouraged, there remains some foreign words which have no English translation.

On the other hand, maybe it is not surprising. There are up to 7,000 languages spoken across the world; and in the UK, only 14 per cent of people can speak two languages in addition to their native, according to a report by the European Union in 2012.

A new illustrative book More Than Just A Word – Untranslatable Words Of Love From Around The World, by Emma Block and Vashi jewellers explores some of these words, many of which relate to the subject of love.

Here are some foreign words which have no equivalent in English:

1. Cafuné (Portugese) – The act of running your fingers through a lover’s hair.

2. Litost (Czech) – Defined by Czech writer Milan Kundera as “a state of torment created by the sudden sight of one’s own misery”.

3. Schnapsidee (German) – A plan which is hatched when you are drunk, or a plan so ridiculous you must have been drunk when you thought it up.

Viraha is a Hindi word with no English translation (Emma Block)

4. Viraha (Hindi) – The realisation of love through separation.

5. Jayus (Indonesian) – A joke so unfunny that you can’t help but laugh.

Skype Live Translation

6. Tsundoku (Japanese) – When you buy a book and never get round to reading it.

7. Oodal (Tamil) – The fake anger lovers display following an argument.

Oodal is a Tamil word with no English translation (Emma Block)

8. Toska (Russian) – Described by Vladmir Nabokov, the Russian-American novelist, as “a sensation of great spiritual anguish, often without any specific cause”.

9. Abbiocco (Italian) – The drowsiness you feel after eating a large meal.

Odnoliub is a Russian word with no English translation (Emma Block)

10. Odnoliub (Russian) - Someone that only has one love in their life

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