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14 awesome words we don't have in the English language but that we definitely need

Do you ever notice that there is beauty to be found in the imperfections of life? That the changes that come with the natural process of growth and decay are something that we should embrace, or even celebrate, instead of fight?

The Japanese have a term for that idea—wabi sabi. A concept that takes a couple dozen words to explain English is summed up in just four syllables in Japanese.

The diversity of human languages can be fun to explore, especially when you come across words or phrases that don't translate directly or that take far more words to describe in your own tongue. There are some things that are named in other languages that we just don't have words for in English.

For instance, here are 14 awesome words that would come in super handy sometimes.


(Note: pronunciations are using English phonetics, which don't perfectly reflect the way they sound in the original languages.)


Arbejdsglæde (Danish)

Pronounced [ah-bites-gleh-the]

The satisfaction, fulfillment, or happiness you get from a job that you love. Literally and simply "job joy" (though no one ever seems to use that phrase in the U.S.).


Backpfeifengesicht (German)

Pronounced [back-fifen-ge-zisht]

A person whose face is just begging to be slapped really hard. Such a useful term.


Cafuné (Brazilian Portuguese)

Pronounced [KAH-foo-neh]
The act of tenderly running your fingers through a loved one's hair. Awww.

Fernweh (German)

(pronounced "feirn-vey")

Literally means "far sick." Homesickness for a place you've never been before. A deeper feeling than simple wanderlust.


Fisselig (German)

Pronounced [fi-sel-ig]

Being flustered to the point of being unable to function. Been there.


Fuubutsushi (Japanese)

Pronounced [foo-boot-soo-shee]

Something—a feeling, scent, or image—that reminds you of or makes you yearn for a particular season. (Pumpkin spice, for example.)


Gezelligheid (Dutch)

Pronounced [ge-zel-lig-hide]

That warm, fuzzy feeling you get when you're hanging out with friends or family whose company you truly enjoy. Something we all missed during lockdowns.


Hyppytyynytyydytys (Finnish)

Pronounced [hyp-ya-teyrna-teyrna-dish]

Seriously the best word ever with the best meaning ever. It means the pleasure and satisfaction you get from sitting on a bouncy cushion. Ha!


Iktsuarpok (Inuit)

Pronounced [Ikt-soo-ar-poke]

The feeling of anticipation when you're waiting for someone to arrive and keep checking the door to see if they're there. A universal phenomenon.


Jijivisha (Hindi)

Pronounced [ji-ji-vi-sha]

The intense desire to live life to its fullest, to continuously live in the highest state of being. Nice.

Kummerspeck (German)

Pronounced [koo-mer--speck]

The weight you gain from emotional overeating. Literally—and fittingly—translates as "grief bacon."


Meraki (Greek)

Pronounced [murr-ahh-key]

Pouring yourself so wholeheartedly into something with soul, creativity, or love that you leave a piece of yourself in your work.


Shemomedjamo (Georgian)

Pronounced [sheh–mo–med–JAH–mo]

That feeling when a food tastes so good you can't stop eating it. Literally translates to "I accidentally ate the whole thing." Perfect.


Tsundoku (Japanese)

Pronounced [Tsoon-doh-koo]

Buying a bunch of books or other reading material and letting them pile up, unread. Now I just feel like Japan is spying on me.


There are countless words like this in various languages around the world, terms that don't simply translate over into English without a whole explanation. But some might be surprised to find that we have words for things in English that we simply don't use all that often. For example, did you know there's a word for that amazing smell that accompanies the first rain after a long period of warm, dry weather? It's called petrichor. There's also a word for the appealing, wistful mysteriousness of old bookshops—vellichor.

Or how about ultracrepidarian—a person who expresses opinions on matters outside the scope of their knowledge or expertise? We could have used that term about a hundred thousand times this year.

While we're adding these cool foreign words to our lexicon, maybe we should dig a little deeper into English to find words we didn't even know existed. (Then perhaps we can get to work choosing a universal language we can all learn along with our native tongues so we can easily communicate with each other everywhere we go while still retaining our beautiful cultural expressions. Wouldn't that make life on Earth so much easier?)


Photo by Roméo A. on Unsplash

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