Appendix:Terms considered difficult or impossible to translate into English

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This index contains terms that are considered “untranslatable”, meaning difficult or impossible to translate directly into an English equivalent.

Terms without an English equivalent[edit]

Term Meaning Language Notes
afturbatapíka An unmarried woman or girl who has had a child, which has however since been forgotten, resulting in her being considered a virgin again. Icelandic Literally "convalescent virgin".
cafuné The act of fondling someone's hair or scalp. Portuguese (in Brazil)
coisar To do anything (placeholder for any unrecalled verb). Portuguese
онади (onadi) Macedonian Verb from она (ona, it).
color cane che fugge A nonspecific or nameless color. (English does not have a clear equivalent; sometimes sky-blue pink is used without particular meaning, but it also specifies a real (spectrum of) color the sky sometimes turns; similarly, reddish-green is sometimes used in philosophy as a nonsensical or impossible color, but it also specifies a real color some plants have.) Italian Literally “color of a dog that flees”.
color de gos com fuig Catalan Literally “color of a dog that flees”.
color de perro que huye Spanish Literally “color of a dog that flees”.
cor de burro quando foge Portuguese Literally “color of a donkey when it flees”.
chuva de molhar bobo A rain that seems light enough for people to walk around in without getting wet, fooling those who do into getting soaked; alternatively, a rain that falls before those walking around expected it to come, soaking those who foolishly went out without an umbrella. Portuguese (in Brazil) Literally “fool-wetting rain”.
chuva molha-tolos Portuguese (in Portugal)
fensterln To visit a girl who is the object of one's affections at night, either by coming to her window or by climbing through it into her room. German
Kummerspeck Excess weight gained as a result of stress-related eating. German Literally “grief-fat”.
plʔɛŋ To have a blood-like smell that attracts tigers and leopards. Jehai Used to describe crushed head lice; the blood of most rodents (including squirrels) and civets, gibbons, and some other animals; cooked wild lemongrass; and stagnant water (e.g. in bamboo stems). Contrasted with e.g. pʔih, which is to have a blood-like smell like raw meat or fish.
saudade, soidade The feeling of missing something or someone. Galician
saudade Portuguese
saudade Spanish
دلتنگی(deltangi) Persian
شَوْق(šawq) / اِشْتِيَاق(ištiyāq) Arabic
Sitzriese A person who appears tall when seated but short when standing. German Literally “sit-giant”.
Sitzzwerg A person who appears short when seated but tall when standing. German Literally “sit-dwarf”.
skämskudde A real or imagined pillow one hides behind when experiencing vicarious embarrassment due to watching something embarrassing. Swedish
vetja Used as a filler after bringing forth an idea or suggestion. Swedish Literally "I know".
vitja nafns To appear in the dream of a pregnant woman and suggest a name for her child. Icelandic Literally "to visit a name" or "to visit for a name". This action is usually done by dead relatives. It is sometimes considered bad luck for the parents to not honor this request.
почему́чка (počemúčka) A person, often a child, who asks a lot of questions, especially “why” questions. Russian From почему́ (počemú, why). The term gained currency in English after it was named #9 in a BBC list of the top 10 most difficult words (in any language) to translate.[1]
غیرت(ğeyrat) The desire to control female members of the family and protect them from unwanted sexual attention. Persian, etc. Also borrowed into other languages.
猫舌 (nekojita) A person who can't eat or drink anything hot (at a high temperature) until it cools, due to having an overly sensitive tongue. Japanese Literally “cat-tongue”.
渋い (shibui) Having a simple, subtle, and unobtrusive beauty (see also Shibui at Wikipedia). Japanese
積ん読 (tsundoku) The act of buying a book and leaving it, unread, piled up with other unread books. Japanese A kind of visual pun on the verb phrase 積んで置く (tsunde oku, literally to pile up and leave something). This use of oku is quite common, and the -e oku verb combination commonly contracts in fast or informal speech into just -oku: tsunde okutsundoku. The doku portion was then spelled with (to read, reading), which is read as doku in Sinoxenic compounds, to allude to books as the object of the action.
失獨 / 失独 (shīdú) The phenomenon of parents losing their only child but being unable to have another due to old age or government policy. Chinese Literally “lose only”.


  1. ^ Fiona Macdonald (6 December 2014), “Lost in Translation: Words with incredible meanings”, in BBC[1]