50 Untranslatable Words on Love, Life, and Emotion

, Staff Writer
Updated June 23, 2021
definition of cafuné
    definition of cafuné
    Bohdana Smiian / iStock / Getty Images Plus

While some words of love can be translated from one language to another, there are also many untranslatable words that speak to basic human emotions and desires. These untranslatable words range from romantic ideas like that first rush of falling in love (forelsket in Norwegian) to more fundamental emotions like a longing for a lost homeland (hiraeth in Welsh). All over the world, people have created words to express what it’s like to be a person who feels love and other emotions.

50 Untranslatable Words About Love and Humanity

These 50 words are some of the most moving expressions of love and life truths from languages around the globe:

  1. aware (Japanese) - the feeling of bittersweet joy that comes from a moment you know won’t last
  2. arbejdsglæde (Danish) - the feeling of satisfaction and joy that comes from loving your job
  3. cafuné (Portuguese) - gently and lovingly stroking someone's hair
  4. cavoli riscaldati (Italian) - an attempt to bring back a romance of the past, literally translated as “reheated cabbage”
  5. commuovere (Italian) - a story that is so moving you find yourself crying
  6. cwtch (Welsh) - embracing someone to make that person feel safe
  7. dor (Romanian) - sadly longing or pining for someone or something
  8. drachenfutter (German) - an apology gift to your lover
  9. duende (Spanish) - the emotional power of great art
  10. fahrvergnügen (German) - the love of driving for its own sake
  11. fargin (Yiddish) - to find true joy in the success of other people
  12. fernweh (German) - the feeling of missing a place you haven’t actually been before
  13. filotimo (Greek) - a friend who is very honorable and deserves respect
  14. forelsket (Norwegian) - the rush experienced when you first begin to fall in love
  15. friluftsliv (Norwegian) - the joy of being outside in nature
  16. gattara (Italian) - a woman who loves cats to the point of devotion
  17. gigil (Filipino) - the desire to squeeze something because it is cute
  18. goya (Urdu) - the complete suspension of disbelief that happens when you hear a great story
  19. házisárkány (Hungarian) - a nagging and unhappy spouse, literally translated as “indoor dragon”
  20. hiraeth (Welsh) - longing for the past or for a lost homeland
  21. hygge (Danish) - the relaxing moment of sharing food and drink with friends
  22. iktsuarpok (Inuit) - the feeling that leads you to look out the window to see if a visitor is coming
  23. kilig (Tagalog) - the feeling of blushing and getting butterflies in your stomach when you see someone
  24. koi no yokan (Japanese) - the sense that you could fall in love with a person you only just met
  25. la douleur exquise (French) - the intense pain that comes from wanting a person who can never be yours
  26. l’esprit de l’escalier (French) - the feeling of realizing the perfect thing to say too late for the situation
  27. litost (Czech) - the suffering you feel when you see something that reminds you of how miserable you are
  28. mamihlapinatapai (Yaghan) - a look two people exchange when they want to start something but know they should not
  29. merak (Serbian) - a feeling of pure bliss in simple, daily pleasures
  30. mokita (Kivila) - something that everyone knows is true but no one talks about
  31. naz (Urdu) - the pride of being unconditionally loved
  32. noroke (Japanese) - to brag about a person you love
  33. nunchi (Korean) - the ability to listen carefully to another person and discern his or her mood
  34. odnoliub (Russian) - someone who is capable of only loving one person or one thing at a time
  35. oodal (Tamil) - an exaggerated and put-on anger that goes with a lover’s spat
  36. paasa (Tagalog) - someone who leads another person on, allowing the other person to think they are romantically interested when they are not
  37. pena ajena (Spanish) - the sense of empathy you have for the embarrassment of someone else
  38. razbliuto (Russian) - the feeling you get when you think about a person you used to love but don’t love anymore
  39. rire dans sa barbe (French) - to laugh quietly to yourself about a funny thing that happened in the past
  40. saudade (Portuguese) - the feeling of nostalgic longing for a far-away person or place
  41. schadenfreude (German) - pleasure at the discomfort or misfortune of others
  42. torschlusspanik (German) - the fear that you are running out of time to do something important in your life
  43. toska (Russian) - an overwhelming feeling of misery and boredom
  44. voorpret (Dutch) - the feeling of great anticipation about an upcoming pleasant experience
  45. wabi-sabi (Japanese) - the sense that there is beauty in imperfection
  46. waldeinsamkeit (German) - the feeling of being alone in the woods and connected with nature
  47. won (Korean) - reluctance to let go of a belief that isn’t real
  48. ya’aburnee (Arabic) - a statement that you wish to die before someone you love so you don’t have to endure life without that person
  49. yuanfen (Chinese) - a relationship that was fated or pre-determined
  50. yūgen (Japanese) - the sense that there is much sad beauty and mystery in the universe, especially as it relates to the suffering of people

Expressions of Love Around the World

From romantic Italian phrases to Japanese truths about the universe, there’s a lot to learn from the wisdom of other cultures. At heart, people have a lot in common, and some things are true all over the world. In addition to these beautiful untranslatable words, you can learn to say “I love you” in many languages. That way, even if you don’t use one of these untranslatable words, you can express yourself simply and beautifully.