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Fourteen Fascinating and Untranslatable Words

Handy words from other languages with no English equivalent.

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Some feelings and experiences can't be summed in a single word—at least in English. Luckily, if there’s one thing the English language is good at, it’s borrowing. You’ve probably felt the guilty pleasure of schadenfreude—the German word for experiencing joy at others’ misfortune. Or curled up on the couch for some hygge—the Norwegian concept of contented coziness. But what about ikigai and mamihlapinatapai? When you sit down for a meal, are you looking forward to the sobremesa or the shemomechama?

Enrich your vocabulary with this etymological exploration of untranslatable words. Among the thousands of languages in this wide world, odds are one of them has a word for exactly what you’re feeling right now.

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