"The words we miss" / Gem words that can't be translated

Hi there!

Today I wanted to share with you some of my favorite words from a book that I dearly loved ; it’s called “Les mots qui nous manquent” (in French - I think it could be translated to “The words we miss” but maybe this translation isn’t the best). It’s an encyclopedia written by Yolande Zauberman and Paulina Mikol Spiechowicz. They travelled the world and realized that some words only exist in certain languages and can’t be translated at least in French.

I absolutely love these words but when I told some of these words to native speakers in a said language, sometimes they’d told me that the French explanation for it wasn’t very accurate. So please let me know what you think of these translations/explanations and feel free to share other gem words that are unique to a country :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:

  • Lobi (lingala, Congo) : demain, mais aussi hier / Tomorrow, but also yesterday

  • Nyctophilia (english) : l’amour de la nuit / the love of the night

  • Pukak (inuit and yupik) : la neige poudreuse qui ressemble à du sel / the powder snow that looks like salt

  • Dee (thai) : une femme bisexuelle ou homosexuelle très féminine qui a une histoire d’amour avec une tom / a bisexual or homosexual woman very feminine who has a love story with a “tom”

  • Nyodo (japanese) : l’amour des jeunes femmes / the love of (for?) young women

  • So many words in Arabic that describe various shades of love :heartpulse: : Alsukr l’amour ivresse / the drunkness-love, Alhourâk l’amour comme une noyade, un abîme, un feu, un anéantissement / the love that feels like drowning, falling for ever, a fire, a crash, Alhouyam l’amour perdition, la soif brûlante / the love where you get lost, the burning thirst

  • Weltschmerz (german) : la douleur du monde, la douleur pour le monde / the pain of the world, the pain for the world

  • Tsukimi (japanese) : passer une nuit blanche à s’enivrer et à contempler la pleine lune ( @JuliaD spéciale cassdédi :heart:) / to spend the night without sleeping, contemplating the full moon

Aaaaah there’s so many of them! If you want I can share more.
Please let me know what you think :heavy_heart_exclamation:


Hello @AlexAnna :happyllama: Wow what a beautiful compilation! Tsukimi could easily become my new favorite word :new_moon:. I have three more words that I would like to share:

Saudade: this one is Portuguese, and it is used to describe a nostalgic feeling, something or someone missing. Profound melancholy would be also a good way to describe it.

Heimweh: (German) This one I’ve experienced myself, and it’s the feeling of missing home and wanting to be there.

Apapachar: (Spanish) Last but not least one of my absolute favorites. This one comes from an indigenous Mexican language called náhuatl, and it originally means to hug with your soul :heartpulse:.


Such a lovely post, makes me want to learn Arabic and Japanese straight away :star_struck:

My personal addition – albeit not poetic at all – would be the German word doch when it’s used to contradict someone else’s statement. In English, you always need a full sentence (e.g. “She doesn’t like strawberries.” – “Yes she does!”, “You can’t do this!” – “Yes I can!”). In German, you can simply use “doch” (“Sie mag keine Erdbeeren.” – “Doch.”, “Das kannst du nicht machen!” – “Doch!”).


Wow, really interesting topic! Thanks for sharing this post @AlexAnna!

I’m really interested to know in what context this word could be used:

Do you have any ideas or examples?

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I didn’t know there was a word for “tsukimi” :smile:

@27sp.sandra I so agree for “Heimweh”! I would also add “Heimat”

Also, from english, I often find we lack a good translation in French for “fluffy” and “cuddle”!


Quichua word “rumishungu” (literally “stone-hearted”) refers to an extreme obstinate person who doesn’t want to change at all.


I also love those two German words, which are difficult to translate:

  • sich an etwas sattsehen (to watch something until you got satisfied)
  • das Sitzfleisch (steadiness, perseverance)

How would you translate or describe “Sitzfleisch” in English? :thinking: :smile:


In my lesson with @Ellimaus today, we came across an exercise with this article about a Japanese reporter who died from overwork. We asked ourselves, could this be true?

Well, Google told me that there is in fact a word in Japanese for “overwork death”! - Karoshi

:neutral_face: It’s not exactly a “fun” fact, but it’s interesting nonetheless!