Foreign Language Words That Don’t Translate Into English

August 6, 2021 · CLASSMATES FUN

Learning a foreign language can be challenging, and it’s even more so when you try to understand a word that doesn’t exist in English. Here are some examples of words that are common in other languages but we don’t recognize in our own.


Backpfeifengesicht (German):

“A face in need of a fist.”


Kummerspeck (German):

It literally translates to “grief bacon,” but refers to weight that is gained from excessive eating due to being sad.

Bakku-Shan (Japanese):

A slang term that describes the experience of seeing a woman who appears pretty from behind but isn’t pretty from the front.

Koi Non Yokan (Japanese):

“That inevitable feeling that you’ll fall in love with someone.”



Lagom (Swedish):

“Something that is just the right amount.”

Gigil (Tagalog):

“A situation of such extreme cuteness that it’s overwhelming,” or the urge to hug something cute.


Mencolek (Indonesian):

“The action of tapping someone on the opposite shoulder to get them to look in the wrong direction.”


Pena ajena (Spanish):

“To be embarrassed for someone.” The same word also exists in German, as “fremdschämen.”


Schadenfreud (Geman):

“Schaden” means “damage” and “freude” means “joy,” and “schadenfreude” is the joy you feel at another person’s pain.

Razbliuto (Russian):

A word that describes the feelings you had towards someone you once loved but no longer do.


Cafuné (Brazilian Portuguese):

“Running your fingers through the hair of someone you love.” How romantic!


Cavoli Riscaldati (Italian):

The literal translation is “reheated cabbage,” but the actual definition is nothing remotely close to that. It’s a word describing the result of attempting to revive an unworkable relationship.

Faamiti (Samoan):

This one is very specific. It’s “the action of making a squeaking sound by sucking air past the lips to attract the attention of a dog or child.”



Fisselig (German):

“Fisselig” means being flustered to the point where you can’t properly function or finish what you were doing.


Tartle (Scottish):

“The moment of hesitation before introducing someone because you can’t remember their name.” I’m sure we’ve all done that.


Mamihlapinatapai (Yaghan – Tierra del Fuego’s language):

Have you ever been in the situation where you and someone else are staring at each other, wishing that the other would initiate something that you both want, but neither wants to make the first move? That’s “mamihlapinatapai.”


Estrenar (Spanish): 

“To try out/use or try on something for the first time.”


Chanter en yaourt/yaourter (French):

The action of trying to sing along to a song when you don’t know the words, usually replacing the lyrics with similar sounds, like “la la la.”


Gâchis (French):

“A great opportunity that is wasted by incompetence and stupidity.” Ouch.

Terroir (French):

Most used by those in the wine and cheese industries, “terroir” means the combination of climate, geology, geography, and labor of a place that contribute to how the cheese and wine are produced.