We previously looked on the Tomedes blog at ten words that have no English translation. However, there are also words in English that can’t be translated into other languages. Here are a few of the most interesting.
Awkward is the perfect word to describe that peculiarly British blend of embarrassment, discomfort and uncertainty that arises most often in social situations when someone has said something that they shouldn’t. There is no direct equivalent in Italian – the closest word is ‘scomodo,’ which means uncomfortable.
Jinx can either refer to an object (or person) that brings bad luck, or be used as a verb. There is no single word equivalent in Polish, so ‘jinx’ has to be translated to ‘something that brings bad luck.’
The use of ‘shallow’ to mean something that is not deep has no direct equivalent in French, so has to be translated as ‘peu profond.’ This is distinct from ‘superficial,’ which in French is ‘superficiel.’
Insight is the ability to gain a deep, accurate and intuitive understanding of someone or something. It cannot be directly translated into Spanish, so the words for ‘perspicacity,’ ‘perception,’ ‘penetration’ or ‘intuition’ have to be used instead.
The word ‘nice’ is used a great deal in England and, depending on the context and tone of voice of the speaker can actually have quite a subtle range of different meanings. It is a word that many other languages struggle to incorporate in quite the same way.
There is no direct equivalent in German of the word ‘put.’ Instead, Germans have to opt for ‘set,’ ‘place,’ ‘lay’ or a similar suitable substitute.
The word ‘off’ is hard to translate into French. As a preposition, it tends to be covered by ‘de,’ though this more accurately translates as ‘of,’ ‘to,’ ‘from,’ ‘by,’ or ‘with.’
Which English words have no equivalent in your native language? How do you get around the problem? Let us know via the comments.