The 50 Most Difficult Words to Translate into English

What happens when a word isn’t easily translated into English? Many words require careful explanation for English speakers, while others, like “schadenfreude,” are absorbed into the language as is. Find out which 50 words are most difficult to translate into English.

The 50 Most Difficult Words to Translate into English
Text version
Akihi | Hawaiian

Receiving instructions and immediately forgetting everything once you try to apply them

Kummerspeck | German

Literally "grief bacon," the weight one gains through emotional stress-eating

Baisure | French

The spot where two loaves of bread have touched while baking in the oven

Kyoiku mama (教育ママ) | Japanese

A woman obsessed with her children's educational achievements

Boketto (ボケット) | Japanese

Absently idling without doing or thinking about anything in particular

L'appel du vide | French

Literally "the call of the void," an inexplicable instinctive urge to jump from a high place

Bulemielernen | German

Literally "bulimic studying," the process of cramming for a test and instantly forgetting everything the next day

Lebenslüge | German

Literally "life lie," self-deception to avoid conflicts with a core part of one's identity

The act of gently running your fingers through a loved one's hair

Mamihlapinatapei | Yaghan

The silent look exchanged between two people who both wish the other would initiate something but are both hesitant to initiate anything themselves

Culaccino | Italian

The small amount of substance remaining at the bottom of a cup or glass once fully drunk; also the mark a wet glass leaves behind on a surface

Mangata | Swedish

The reflection the moon makes in a body of water

Dépaysement | French

A feeling of discomfort resulting from being outside of your native country

Maskrosbarn | Swedish

Literally "dandelion child," someone who lives through a difficult childhood but turns out all right in the end, like a dandelion breaking through tough pavement

Deppenleerzeichen | German

Literally "idiot's white space," the resulting space when mistakenly writing a compound word as two words

Mikkabouzu (三日坊主) | Japanese

Literally "three-day monk," someone who gives up at the slightest difficulty or fails to stick to anything

Duende | Spanish

The strong but unexplainable power of a piece of art to deeply move a person emotionally

Pochemuchka (почемучка) | Russian

Someone who incessantly asks questions

Elefantenrennen | German

Literally "elephant race," a situation in which one slow driver tries to pass another slightly slower driver, thereby obstructing the traffic behind them

Prozvonit | Czech

To make a phone call and then hang up before it's answered

Estağfurullah | Turkish

A word used to courteously reject a compliment while still expressing gratitude for it

Sankocha (ಸಂಕೋಚ) | Kannada

The feeling of discomfort after having received an inappropriately extravagant gift and feeling obliged to return the favor, even though it's out of your means

Friolenta | Spanish

A woman who is extremely sensitive to the cold

Schadenfreude | German

The sadistic pleasure one derives from others' misfortune

Fußhupe | German

Literally "foot horn," a dog so tiny it may accidentally be stepped on (at which point it produces a "honking" sound)

Sharmā jī kā betā (शर्मा जी का बेटा) | Hindi

Literally "Mr. Sharma's son," the "perfect" child of your parents' friend whom they compare you to when they're upset with you

Gluggaveõur | Icelandic

Literally "window weather," weather that looks nice but in actuality is not

-shimau | Japanese

An auxiliary verb used to convey a lack of intention and often a connotation of regret (e.g., tabeteshimatta (食べてしまった), "I didn't mean to eat it, but I did anyway")

Grengjai (เกร็งใจ) | Thai

To feel obliged to do something for somebody to avoid them feeling bad

Skämskudde | Swedish

Literally "cringe pillow," a pillow (real or imaginary) used to cover one's face when watching something cringy

Grima | Spanish

Discomfort from such stimuli as the scratching of nails on a blackboard, the thought of a needle piercing your eye, the sound of someone cracking their knuckles, etc.

Shlimazel | Yiddish

Someone who's always unlucky

Gyaku-gire (逆ギレ) | Japanese

Being angry at someone for justifiably being angry at you

Tingo | Pascuense

To continuously borrow objects from a friend until one has taken all his or her belongings

Hiraeth | Welsh

A feeling of melancholy and a sense of longing for a place that never existed

Torschlusspanik | German

Literally "gate-closing panic," the fear of running out of time to act on an opportunity or life goal

Hyggelig | Danish

An adjective describing a warm, cozy, friendly atmosphere--e.g., hot mulled mead with close friends in front of a cozy fireplace

Tsundoku (積ん読) | Japanese

The act of stockpiling books without reading them

Iktsuarpok | Inuit

The anticipation one experiences when waiting for a visitor, resulting in frequent trips outside to check for them

Verschlimmbessern | German

To try to improve something but just end up making it worse

Ilunga | Tshiluba

A person willing to forgive abuse upon the first offense and tolerate it upon the second instance, but drawing the line the third time it happens

Vorführeffekt | German

The phenomenon of failing at doing something you can normally do as soon as you try to show it to someone

Jayus | Indonesian

A joke so unfunny and poorly delivered that it paradoxically evokes laughter

Wabi-Sabi (侘び寂び) | Japanese

A lifestyle wherein one endeavors to discover the beauty in imperfections

Jubjoter | French

To awaken from a dream before it ends and attempt to fall back asleep to find out the ending

Waldeinsamkeit | German

The feeling of solitude that comes with being alone in the forest

Kalpa (कल्प) | Sanskrit

The grand-scale passage of time in a cosmological sense

Yahourt | French

A foreign song you try to sing along to by mimicking the sounds without understanding the language

Kissanristiäiset | Finnish

Literally "cat's christening," a trivial or unimportant celebration or social gathering

Załatwić | Polish

To use connections, charm, or bribes to get something you want