August 14, 2014

Following the extensive popularity enjoyed by our original examination of words without translation, we decided to revisit the subject and find further examples of words that simply dont translate easily out of their native language.

For professional translators, such words can pose a tricky problem when it comes to succinct translation. They can also provide fascinating examples of the beauty of language something which many linguistics find both interesting and inspiring. In this spirit, we here present our next seven favourite words without translation.

Saudade (Portuguese)

A deeply emotional feeling of longing, profound melancholy, or nostalgia that is supposedly characteristic of the Portuguese or Brazilian temperament.

"Her songs were woven with a deep sense of saudade for her lost love."

Toska (Russian)

A feeling of great spiritual anguish, almost an ache of the soul, with no definable cause.

"His poetry expressed the toska by which he was plagued."

Googly (English)

An off-breaking cricket ball that is delivered by a bowler with a right-arm leg spin.

"The batter wasnt expecting a googly, but managed a good hit nevertheless."

Naa (Japanese)

A means of adding emphasis to the end of a statement and seeking confirmation from the listener. Naa can also be used as a means of agreeing with someone.

"It would be nice if we could go fishing tomorrow, naa."

Tartle (Scottish)

The act of pausing while making introductions, as you have forgotten the name of the person you are about to introduce.

"Please excuse my tartle, but I cannot place you please could you remind me of your name?"

Shlimazl (Yiddish)

A person who suffers from chronic bad luck or fails at everything they try, in part due to their own ineptitude.

"He is a very lucky man, but his wife is such a shlimazl."

Schadenfreude (German)

Finding pleasure in anothers misfortune.

"His fondness for schadenfreude meant that he made few friends at college."

What is your favourite un-translatable word and why? Share your thoughts via the comments box.

By Ofer Tirosh

Ofer Tirosh is the founder and CEO of Tomedes, a language technology and translation company that supports business growth through a range of innovative localization strategies. He has been helping companies reach their global goals since 2007.



Subscribe to receive all the latest updates from Tomedes.

Post your Comment

I want to receive a notification of new postings under this topic


Need expert language assistance? Inquire now

Do It Yourself

I want a free quote now and I'm ready to order my translations.

Do It For Me

I'd like Tomedes to provide a customized quote based on my specific needs.

Want to be part of our team?