51 Wonderful Words With No English Equivalent

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FabrikaCr/iStock via Getty Images

Sometimes we must turn to other languages to find le mot juste. Here's a bunch of foreign words with no direct English equivalent.

1. Backpfeifengesicht (German)

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A face badly in need of a fist.

2. Bakku-shan (Japanese)

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This Japanese slang term describes the experience of seeing a woman who appears pretty from behind but not from the front.

3. Bilita Mpash (Bantu)

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An amazing dream. Not just a "good" dream; the opposite of a nightmare.

4. Boketto (Japanese)

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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.

5. Cafune (Brazilian Portuguese)

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Leave it to the Brazilians to come up with a word for “tenderly running your fingers through your lover’s hair.”

6. Cavoli Riscaldati (Italian)

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The result of attempting to revive an unworkable relationship. Translates to "reheated cabbage."

7. Cotisuelto (Caribbean Spanish)

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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.

8. Faamiti (Samoan)

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To make a squeaking sound by sucking air past the lips in order to gain the attention of a dog or child.

9. Fernweh (German)

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A longing for distant places—and while the English word wanderlust comes close, fernweh can also refer to a longing for a place you’ve never even been.

10. Fisselig (German)

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Ever been flustered to the point where you can’t function or finish what you were doing? That’s fisselig.

11. and 12. Fremdschämen (German) and Myötähäpeä (Finnish)

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The kinder, gentler cousins of Schadenfreude, both these words mean something akin to "vicarious embarrassment.”

13. Frühjahrsmüdigkeit (German)

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Frühjahr is "springtime," while Müdigkeit means "tiredness." Together, it refers to a sort of reverse seasonal affective disorder—when people become depressed or lethargic at the onset of spring.

14. Gigil (Filipino)

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The urge to pinch or squeeze something that is irresistibly cute.

15. Greng-jai (Thai)

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That feeling you get when you don't want someone to do something for you because it would be a pain for them.

16. Honigkuchenpferd (German)

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Taken literally, this word means “horse-shaped honey cake.” But it’s a turn of phrase, somewhat equivalent to the English idiom “grinning like a Cheshire cat.” It’s talking about a big grin the wearer just can’t wipe off of their face.

17. Hygge (Danish)

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Denmark’s mantra, hygge is the pleasant, genial, and intimate feeling associated with sitting around a fire in the winter with close friends.

18. Iktsuarpok (Inuit)

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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.

19. Kaelling (Danish)

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You know that woman who stands on her doorstep (or in line at the supermarket, or at the park, or in a restaurant) cursing at her children? The Danes know her, too.

20. Koi No Yokan (Japanese)

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The sense upon first meeting a person that the two of you are going to fall in love.

21. Kummerspeck (German)

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Excess weight gained from emotional overeating. Literally, "grief bacon."

22. Lagom (Swedish)

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Maybe Goldilocks was Swedish? This slippery little word is hard to define, but means something like, “Not too much, and not too little, but juuuuust right.”

23. Layogenic (Tagalog)

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Remember in Clueless when Cher describes someone as “a full-on Monet … from far away, it’s OK, but up close it’s a big old mess”? That’s exactly what this word means.

24. L’esprit de l’escalier (French)

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Literally, "stairwell wit"—a too-late retort thought of only after departure.

25. Litost (Czech)

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Milan Kundera described the emotion as “a state of torment created by the sudden sight of one’s own misery.”

26. Luftmensch (Yiddish)

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There are several Yiddish words to describe social misfits. This one is for an impractical dreamer with no business sense.

27. Mamihlapinatapai (Yaghan language of Tierra del Fuego)

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This word captures that special look shared between two people, when both are wishing that the other would do something that they both want, but neither want to do.

28. Mencolek (Indonesian)

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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.

29. Packesel (German)

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A packesel is the person who’s stuck carrying everyone else’s bags on a trip. Literally, a burro.

30. Pålegg (Norwegian)

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Sandwich Artists unite! The Norwegians have a non-specific descriptor for anything—ham, cheese, jam, Nutella, mustard, herring, pickles, Doritos, you name it—you might consider putting into a sandwich.

31. Pana Po’o (Hawaiian)

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“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.

32. Pelinti (Buli, Ghana)

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Your friend bites into a piece of piping hot pizza, then opens his mouth and sort of tilts his head around while making an “aaaarrrahh” noise. The Ghanaians have a word for that. More specifically, it means “to move hot food around in your mouth.”

33. Razbliuto (Russian)

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The nostalgic feeling you may have for someone you once loved, but don’t anymore.

34. and 35. Schlemiel and schlimazel (Yiddish)

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Someone prone to bad luck. Yiddish distinguishes between the schlemiel and schlimazel, whose fates would probably be grouped under those of the klutz in other languages. The schlemiel is the traditional maladroit, who spills his coffee; the schlimazel is the one on whom it's spilled.

36. Seigneur-terraces (French)

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Coffee shop dwellers who sit at tables for a long time but spend very little money.

37. Sentak Bangun (Indonesian)

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This Indonesian verb means “to wake up with a start.”

38. Shemomedjamo (Georgian)

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You know when you’re really full, but your meal is just so delicious, you can’t stop eating it? The Georgians feel your pain. This word means, “I accidentally ate the whole thing."

39. Shouganai (Japanese)

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It’s a little bit like “Que será, será,” but with a slight spin: If there’s nothing you can do about it, don’t waste time being angry or worrying.

40. Slampadato (Italian)

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Addicted to the UV glow of tanning salons? This word describes you.

41. Sobremesa (Spanish)

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The time spent at a table after eating. The food is gone, but everyone is still sitting around chatting, maybe drinking coffee or playing cards.

42. Tartle (Scots)

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The nearly onomatopoeic word for that panicky hesitation just before you have to introduce someone whose name you can't quite remember.

43. Treppenwitz (German)

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It literally means “staircase joke,” because it refers to the moment you think of a comeback way after the fact—usually when you’re in the stairwell on the way out the door.

44. Tsundoku (Japanese)

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Many of us are guilty of this one—buying new books (or any reading material) and letting them pile up, unread.

45. Uffda (Swedish)

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States like Minnesota and Wisconsin express sympathy for someone or a sticky situation. It’s a combination of “Ouch!” and “I’m sorry you hurt yourself.”

46. Vybafnout (Czech)

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A word tailor-made for annoying older brothers—it means to jump out and say boo.

47. Weltschmerz (German)

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This one may hit close to home for many: It translates to world grief, and means “a gloomy, romanticized world-weary sadness, experienced most often by privileged youth.”

48. Ya’arburnee (Arabic)

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This word is the hopeful declaration that you will die before someone you love deeply, because you cannot stand to live without them. Literally, "may you bury me."

49. Yuputka (Ulwa)

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A word made for walking in the woods at night, it’s the phantom sensation of something crawling on your skin.

50. Zeg (Georgian)

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It means “the day after tomorrow.” OK, we do have overmorrow in English, but when was the last time someone used that?

51. Zhaghzhagh (Persian)

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The chattering of teeth from the cold or from rage.

Looking to Downsize? You Can Buy a 5-Room DIY Cabin on Amazon for Less Than $33,000

Five rooms of one's own.
Five rooms of one's own.
Allwood/Amazon

If you’ve already mastered DIY houses for birds and dogs, maybe it’s time you built one for yourself.

As Simplemost reports, there are a number of house kits that you can order on Amazon, and the Allwood Avalon Cabin Kit is one of the quaintest—and, at $32,990, most affordable—options. The 540-square-foot structure has enough space for a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom, and a sitting room—and there’s an additional 218-square-foot loft with the potential to be the coziest reading nook of all time.

You can opt for three larger rooms if you're willing to skip the kitchen and bathroom.Allwood/Amazon

The construction process might not be a great idea for someone who’s never picked up a hammer, but you don’t need an architectural degree to tackle it. Step-by-step instructions and all materials are included, so it’s a little like a high-level IKEA project. According to the Amazon listing, it takes two adults about a week to complete. Since the Nordic wood walls are reinforced with steel rods, the house can withstand winds up to 120 mph, and you can pay an extra $1000 to upgrade from double-glass windows and doors to triple-glass for added fortification.

Sadly, the cool ceiling lamp is not included.Allwood/Amazon

Though everything you need for the shell of the house comes in the kit, you will need to purchase whatever goes inside it: toilet, shower, sink, stove, insulation, and all other furnishings. You can also customize the blueprint to fit your own plans for the space; maybe, for example, you’re going to use the house as a small event venue, and you’d rather have two or three large, airy rooms and no kitchen or bedroom.

Intrigued? Find out more here.

[h/t Simplemost]

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Why Do We Say ‘Spill the Beans’?

This is a Greek tragedy.
This is a Greek tragedy.
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Though superfans of The Office may claim otherwise, the phrase spill the beans did not originate when Kevin Malone dropped a massive bucket of chili at work during episode 26 of season five. In fact, people supposedly started talking about spilling the beans more than 2000 years ago.

According to Bloomsbury International, one voting method in ancient Greece involved (uncooked) beans. If you were voting yes on a certain matter, you’d place a white bean in the jar; if you were voting no, you’d use your black bean. The jar wasn’t transparent, and since the votes were meant to be kept secret until the final tally, someone who accidentally knocked it over mid-vote was literally spilling the beans—and figuratively spilling the beans about the results.

While we don’t know for sure that the phrase spill the beans really does date all the way back to ancient times, we do know that people have used the word spill to mean “divulge” at least since the 16th century. The Oxford English Dictionary’s earliest known reference of it is from a letter written by Spanish chronicler Antonio de Guevara sometime before his death in 1545 (the word spill appears in Edward Hellowes’s 1577 translation of the letter).

Writers started to pair spill with beans during the 20th century. The first known mention is from Thomas K. Holmes’s 1919 novel The Man From Tall Timber: “‘Mother certainly has spilled the beans!’ thought Stafford in vast amusement.”

In short, it’s still a mystery why people decided that beans were an ideal food to describe spilling secrets. As for whether you’re imagining hard, raw beans like the Greeks used or the tender, seasoned beans from Kevin Malone’s ill-fated chili, we’ll leave that up to you.

[h/t Bloomsbury International]