12 Untranslatable words and Their Translations

There are some words from around the world that can’t be translated. Traductanet would like to present you with a list of 12 untranslatable words that we will try to explain.

For instance: is it the case that words such as the Portuguese “saudade” can only be truly understood by those who speak the language in question?


1- Saudade

This Portuguese word crops up on many lists of untranslatable terms. The writer Manuel de Melo has defined it as “a pleasure you suffer; an ailment you enjoy”. You could argue that that’s a reasonable description of the concept of “nostalgia”. It would seem to be the case that the important place occupied by “saudade” in the literary and musical tradition of Portuguese-speaking countries is what is difficult to “translate”. In other words, this simply boils down to cultural differences.


2 – Desenrascanço

This Portuguese word describes the ability to solve problems quickly, without having many means to do so.


3 – Fernweh

This German word describes a longing to visit faraway places.


4 -Bakku-shan

This Japanese untranslatable word means “a woman who is only beautiful when seen from behind”.


5 – Shlimazl

We included this Yiddish term in our list of untranslatable words as it describes as the quality of being “chronically unlucky”, a concept for which there is no single word in other languages.


6 – Gattara

This Italian word refers to a woman who is generally older and lives alone, taking care of stray cats.


7 – Hanyauku

This Kwangali word describes the action of walking on the tips of your toes to avoid hot sand.


8 – Cúbóg

This is an Irish word that refers to a batch or collection of Easter eggs.


9 – Tsundoku

This Japanese word describes the act of leaving a recently bought book unread close to other unread books.


10 – Pochemuchka

This Russian word refers to a person who asks too many questions


11 – Utepils

This Norwegian word describes the act of sitting outside on a Sunday drinking beer.


12 – Iktsuarpok

Who hasn’t felt the frustration of having to wait for someone? This Inuit word was included in this list of untranslatable words because it describes precisely that feeling.


Want to learn more and give our translation team a challenge? Contact Traductanet and get a quote for your translation.

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