The Global Language Monitor estimates that there are currently 1,009,753 words in the English language. Despite this large lexicon, many nuances of human experience still leave us tongue-tied. And that’s why sometimes it’s necessary to turn to other languages to find le mot juste. Here are 15 foreign words with no direct English equivalent.
1. Zhaghzhagh // Persian
The chattering of teeth from the cold or from rage.
2. Yuputka // Ulwa
A word made for walking in the woods at night, it’s the phantom sensation of something crawling on your skin.
3. Slampadato // Italian
Addicted to the UV glow of tanning salons? This word describes you.
4. Luftmensch // Yiddish
There are several Yiddish words to describe social misfits. This one is for an impractical dreamer with no business sense. Literally, air person.
5. Iktsuarpok // Inuit
You know that feeling of anticipation when you’re waiting for someone to show up at your house and you keep going outside to see if they’re there yet? This is the word for it.
6. Cotisuelto // Caribbean Spanish
A word that would aptly describe the prevailing fashion trend among American men under 40, it means one who wears the shirt tail outside of his trousers.
7. Pana Po’o // Hawaiian
“Hmm, now where did I leave those keys?” he said, pana po’oing. It means to scratch your head in order to help you remember something you’ve forgotten.
8. Gumusservi // Turkish
Meteorologists can be poets in Turkey with words like this at their disposal. It means moonlight shining on water.
9. Vybafnout // Czech
A word tailor-made for annoying older brothers—it means to jump out and say boo.
10. Mencolek // Indonesian
You know that old trick where you tap someone lightly on the opposite shoulder from behind to fool them? The Indonesians have a word for it.
11. Faamiti // Samoan
To make a squeaking sound by sucking air past the lips in order to gain the attention of a dog or child.
12. Glas wen // Welsh
A smile that is insincere or mocking. Literally, a blue smile.
13. Bakku-shan // Japanese
The experience of seeing a woman who appears pretty from behind but not from the front.
14. Boketto // Japanese
It’s nice to know that the Japanese think enough of the act of gazing vacantly into the distance without thinking to give it a name.
15. Kummerspeck // German
Excess weight gained from emotional overeating. Literally, grief bacon.
Many of the words above can be found in BBC researcher Adam Jacot de Boinod's book The Meaning of Tingo and Other Extraordinary Words from Around the World.