Writing Wednesday: 10 Useful Foreign Words with No English Translation

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Though the Endpaper Blog is written in English, we have a fascination with world languages and linguistics. Sometimes there is just no way to capture a certain idea or feeling by using an English word or phrase – that’s why words like “schadenfreude” and “aficionado” have become “de rigueur” in English writing (see what we did there?).

If you’re having trouble expressing a sentiment in English, try turning to another language for a word or phrase that works best.

Ten Great Foreign Words to Use

  1. Desbundarto shed one’s inhibitions while having fun (Portuguese)
  2. Kummerspeck – the weight you gain from emotional eating, literally, “grief bacon” (German)
  3. Littérateur – someone who is interested in and knowledgeable about writing and literature (French)
  4. Kilig – the feeling of butterflies in the stomach that you get when something romantic happens (Tagalog)
  5. Mamihlapinatapai this word has the distinction of being named by the Guinness Book of World Records as the “most succinct word,” and it refers to “a look shared by two people, each wishing that the other would initiate something that they both desire but which neither wants to begin” (Yaghan)
  6. Natsukashii – a bittersweet longing for the past, which is both happy for the fond memory and sad for it being in the past (Japanese)
  7. Shemomedjamo – a much-needed word that explains continuing to eat well past the point of being full, this roughly translates to “I accidentally ate the whole thing” (Georgian)
  8. Ya’arburnee – meaning “you bury me,” this expresses the wish that you will die before the person you love because you cannot bear to live without them (Arabic)
  9. Jayus – a joke so unfunny and so poorly executed that one cannot help but laugh (Indonesian)
  10. Shlimazl – someone who has nothing but bad luck (Yiddish)

Interested in Learning More?

This isn’t the first time we’ve taken a look at fabulous foreign words and phrases. For more, check out:

About Paperblanks: 25 years ago, we created Paperblanks to help keep book heritage alive and vital in our modern age, and to offer an inspiring space for people to express themselves. Thanks for joining us on this journey! For more about Paperblanks, go to our website at paperblanks.com.

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3 comments on “Writing Wednesday: 10 Useful Foreign Words with No English Translation

  1. Interesting article! Some remarks: The 2nd word is written “Kummerspeck” not “Kummerspeak”… The 6th one seems to be a synonym for melancholy? Also, there’s a German word for #10: “Pechvogel” (literally “bad luck bird”).

    • Hi Lys,

      Thanks for sharing with us! You are quite write about the spelling for the 2nd word, and appreciate you catching our typo! We’ve fixed that in the article.

      You’re right about the 6th one being similar to melanchol, though we think of this one as being like a specific type of melancholy, where you know the cause of your sadness or pensiveness is a longing for the past.

      Sounds like two languages have summed up the “bad luck” personality quite well! We’re always interested in learning more terms like “Pechvogel.”

      The Paperblanks Team

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