51 Wonderful Words With No English Equivalent

FabrikaCr/iStock via Getty Images
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)

Portrait of a man being punched in the face
bowie15/iStock via Getty Images

A face badly in need of a fist.

2. Bakku-shan (Japanese)

Woman walking alone in The Shambles in York, England
Teamjackson/iStock via Getty Images

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)

Young woman enjoying a wonderful dream
katiafonti/iStock via Getty Images

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

4. Boketto (Japanese)

Young man staring off into the distance
Tom Merton/iStock via Getty Images

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)

Young man runs his fingers through girlfriend's hair as they sit on sofa
Jack Hollingsworth/iStock via Getty Images

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)

Couple fighting during a date
KatarzynaBialasiewicz/iStock via Getty Images

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

7. Cotisuelto (Caribbean Spanish)

Man takes photos of two young businessmen whose shirts are untucked
dspn/iStock via Getty Images

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)

Happy looking dog running down a walkway
alexei_tm/iStock via Getty Images

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)

Young woman uses a map to plan a vacation
last19/iStock via Getty Images

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)

Flustered young woman hides her head in her shirt
Koldunova_Anna/iStock via Getty Images

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)

Close-up photo of embarrassed young woman
Deagreez/iStock via Getty Images

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

13. Frühjahrsmüdigkeit (German)

Young woman sits on bench and stares into the distance
m-gucci/iStock via Getty Images

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)

Young girl squeezes her adorable pet cat
Madhourse/iStock via Getty Images

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

15. Greng-jai (Thai)

Woman refuses envelope with money
fizkes/iStock via Getty Images

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)

Young boy with a big grin on his face
m-imagephotography/iStock via Getty Images

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)

Book and cup of tea by a cozy fire
Smitt/iStock via Getty Images

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)

Happy woman waves from her front door
Motortion/iStock via Getty Images

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)

Angry mother scolds disobedient child at store
monkeybusinessimages/iStock via Getty Images

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)

Love at first sight between two people in the park
bokan76/iStock via Getty Images

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

21. Kummerspeck (German)

Young woman eating a bacon sandwich
martinrlee/iStock via Getty Images

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

22. Lagom (Swedish)

Young woman stands in front of three bowls, one of which is
robeo/iStock via Getty Images

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)

Alicia Silverstone and Brittany Murphy in Clueless (1995)
Alicia Silverstone and Brittany Murphy in Clueless (1995).
Paramount Home Entertainment

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)

Young man makes fun of his colleague
Giulio Fornasar/iStock via Getty Images

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

25. Litost (Czech)

Young woman is dealing with her own misery
bunditinay/iStock via Getty Images

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

26. Luftmensch (Yiddish)

Overworked man at work
SIphotography/iStock via Getty Images

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)

Man and woman share a suspicious glance
fizkes/iStock via Getty Images

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)

Man touches female colleague's shoulder
yacobchuk/iStock via Getty Images

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)

Man carrying several suitcases
ULU_BIRD/iStock via Getty Images

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

30. Pålegg (Norwegian)

Several sandwich ingredients against a white background
Lazy_Bear/iStock via Getty Images

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)

Woman scratches head trying to figure something out against yellow background
Deagreez/iStock via Getty Images

“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)

Young man eats slice of hot pizza
jacoblund/iStock via Getty Images

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)

Teenagers in love
Vagengeym_Elena/iStock via Getty Images

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

34. and 35. Schlemiel and schlimazel (Yiddish)

Businessman spills his cup of coffee
James Woodson/iStock via Getty Images

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)

Two men sip coffee and chat at a coffee shop
bernardbodo/iStock via Getty Images

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

37. Sentak Bangun (Indonesian)

Man wakes up while woman remains asleep next to him
Viacheslav Peretiatko/iStock via Getty Images

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

38. Shemomedjamo (Georgian)

Young girl indulges in a piece of sponge cake
lekcej/iStock via Getty Images

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)

A young woman laughs off the rainy weather
YakobchukOlena/iStock via Getty Images

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)

Young woman in a tanning bed
nd3000/iStock via Getty Images

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

41. Sobremesa (Spanish)

Friends have a meal together
Rawpixel/iStock via Getty Images

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)

Two young people nervously meet each other
Deagreez/iStock via Getty Images

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)

Man in stairway annoyed by what he is reading on smartphone
NiKita Filippov/iStock via Getty Images

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)

A woman sits and reads among piles of books.
iStock

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

45. Uffda (Swedish)

A cocker spaniel against a  black background
Seregraff/iStock via Getty Images

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)

Young man is terrified
Ozge Emir/iStock via Getty Images

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

47. Weltschmerz (German)

Man holds the hands of a grieving young woman
fizkes/iStock via Getty Images

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)

An older couple relaxes by reading a book together
EllenaZ/iStock via Getty Images

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)

Woman walking alone on path in mystic dark forest
scaliger/iStock via Getty Images

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

50. Zeg (Georgian)

Calendar for tomorrow on white background
ISerg/iStock via Getty Images

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)

Chattering tea toy with small pink feet on white surface
ragz13/iStock via Getty Images

The chattering of teeth from the cold or from rage.

Wayfair’s Fourth of July Clearance Sale Takes Up to 60 Percent Off Grills and Outdoor Furniture

Wayfair/Weber
Wayfair/Weber

This Fourth of July, Wayfair is making sure you can turn your backyard into an oasis while keeping your bank account intact with a clearance sale that features savings of up to 60 percent on essentials like chairs, hammocks, games, and grills. Take a look at some of the highlights below.

Outdoor Furniture

Brisbane bench from Wayfair
Brisbane/Wayfair

- Jericho 9-Foot Market Umbrella $92 (Save 15 percent)
- Woodstock Patio Chairs (Set of Two) $310 (Save 54 percent)
- Brisbane Wooden Storage Bench $243 (Save 62 percent)
- Kordell Nine-Piece Rattan Sectional Seating Group with Cushions $1800 (Save 27 percent)
- Nelsonville 12-Piece Multiple Chairs Seating Group $1860 (Save 56 percent)
- Collingswood Three-Piece Seating Group with Cushions $410 (Save 33 percent)

Grills and Accessories

Dyna-Glo electric smoker.
Dyna-Glo/Wayfair

- Spirit® II E-310 Gas Grill $479 (Save 17 percent)
- Portable Three-Burner Propane Gas Grill $104 (Save 20 percent)
- Digital Bluetooth Electric Smoker $224 (Save 25 percent)
- Cuisinart Grilling Tool Set $38 (Save 5 percent)

Outdoor games

American flag cornhole game.
GoSports

- American Flag Cornhole Board $57 (Save 19 percent)
- Giant Four in a Row Game $30 (Save 6 percent)
- Giant Jenga Game $119 (Save 30 percent)

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

10 Words With Difficult-to-Remember Meanings

Can you keep the definitions of these words straight?
Can you keep the definitions of these words straight?
Satenik_Guzhanina/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Sometimes there are words that you've seen, read, and maybe even used in conversation whose meaning you can never keep straight. Even after looking it up, the right definition doesn't stick. From our friends at Vocabulary.com, here are 10 words with definitions that can be difficult to remember. Some look like they have a negative element in them, but either because their positive counterpoint has fallen out of use or because it never existed in the first place, the word doesn't really have a negative sense. Other words below are often confused for their opposite or have come to have connotations not quite reflected in their dictionary definitions.

1. Nonplussed

The Definition: “Filled with bewilderment”

If it looks like there's a negative at the beginning of this word, it's because etymologically speaking, there is—it's from Latin non plus, "no more, no further." Still, there is no word plussed, and that can get confusing.

2. Inchoate

The Definition: “Only partly in existence; imperfectly formed”

It may look like the in- at the start of this word would be the same as the one at the start of words like incomplete or inadequate. Although that may be a good way to remember it, the first letters of this word are not a negative. The word comes from Latin inchoare, which meant "to begin." Inchoate things are often just beginning.

3. and 4. Cachet and Panache

The Definitions: “an indication of approved or superior status”; “distinctive and stylish elegance,” respectively

Shades of meaning between cachet and panache are often confused. Cachet is more about prestige, and panache is more about style. Having high tea at Buckingham Palace can have a lot of cachet in your social circle, but the genteel way you sip your tea can have a lot of panache.

5. Indefatigable

The Definition: “Showing sustained enthusiastic action with unflagging vitality”

In Latin, it was possible to defatigare, or "to tire out," but only the negative version prefixed with in- survived the journey into English (via French). Indefatigable is a word you almost have to say quickly, and if you get through all those syllables, it's almost as if you've proven the definition: It takes "unflagging vitality" to reach the end.

6. Uncanny

The Definition: “Surpassing the ordinary or normal”

The word canny is rare but not unknown as a word that means "cunning" or "sly." The only problem is that that's not the meaning of canny contained in uncanny. Canny used to mean "knowing and careful," and therefore uncanny meant "mischievous," coming to refer to supernatural spirits who toyed with mortals. Comic book fans have a huge head start with this word, having grown up with the Uncanny X-Men, who all have supernatural powers.

7. Unabashed

The Definition: “Not embarrassed”

This word is one where the positive version did exist but has fallen out of use. Abash meant "perplex, embarrass, lose one's composure" in the late 14th and early 15th centuries, so unabashed means "not embarrassed."

8. Dilatory

The Definition: “Wasting time”

This word is confusing because it sounds like it's potentially related to words like dilate or even depilatory. It's not related to either of those words, but luckily there are ways to remember what dilatory actually means—the word almost sounds like delay or dilly dally, both of which relate to the word's definition.

9. Martinet

The Definition: “Someone who demands exact conformity to rules and forms”

This word looks and sounds like marionette, the stringed puppet, which is a pitfall to avoid, because it can lead you to believe that martinet means the exact opposite of what it actually means. A martinet has some power, and no one is pulling their strings.

10. Hoi Polloi

The Definition: “The common people generally”

This is confusing because it's an obscure word for the common folk, and sometimes it's hard to keep straight whether the upper or lower crust is being discussed. Hoi polloi literally means "the many," with polloi being the plural of the well-known Greek prefix poly.

To see more words with difficult-to-remember meanings, and to add them to your vocabulary-learning program, see the full list at Vocabulary.com.