Words We Wish Existed in English
It’s well-known that English boasts more distinct words than any other language (academics claim it has anywhere between 250,000 and 750,000), and yet there are still many thoughts that the world’s most widely-spoken tongue can’t adequately express. For those times that English isn’t quite up to the job, it helps to be able to fill the void with a second language… and here are ten words that really do the trick.
Although originally used to describe a mythical sprite-like figure which possessed humans and created a feeling of awe at the surrounding nature, this great Spanish word has evolved into an expression that can be used far more commonly: ‘the mysterious power that a work of art has to deeply move a person.’
This popular Hindi phrase may literally mean ‘tea and water’, but it’s more commonly used to describe the money and/or favors given to somebody (often a bureaucrat) to get things done. However, unlike the nearest English equivalent of “greasing someone’s palm”, it needn’t have negative connotations.
It may seem like a useless word to us, but for the Czechs ‘Defenestrace’ has great significance. From the Latin ‘de-’ (away from) and ‘fenestra’ (window), it’s literally means ‘to throw somebody out of a window’ – something that’s happened to many religious leaders and politicians during Prague’s turbulent history.
It’s no shock to discover a Japanese word for this, but it would certainly be useful in the English-speaking world as well: it means ‘a mother who relentlessly pushes her children towards academic achievement.’
Literally meaning ‘dragon fodder’, it refers to the gifts (chocolates, flowers etc.) that German husbands bestow on their wives when they’ve stayed out late or engaged in some other inappropriate behavior.
This morbid Arabic phrase may literally mean ‘you bury me’, but it has far more romantic undertones. It is a declaration of one’s hope they’ll die before someone else, as they cannot bear to live without them.
This French word manages to express a whole gamete of negative emotions (melancholy, nostalgia, loss) then sums it up in one simple sentence: ‘the feeling that comes from not being in your home country.’
Literally translated as ‘bare branches’, this Cantonese word is a depressing hangover from China’s long-standing ‘one child’ policy. In short, it describes an excess of marriage-age males compared to females.
Many cultures share this concept, but only Polish manages to sum it up in a single word… Dozywocie is the ‘unwritten contract promising that parents will give unconditional lifelong support to their children.’
A lovely word from Brazilian Portuguese, it means ‘to tenderly run your fingers through someone’s hair’.