I’ve always been fascinated with the origin of words – Etymology, if you will. Why we call a dog a dog and such things. 
(For the record – the origin of the word Dog remains one of the great mysteries of English etymology)

Here are a few instances where other languages
have found the right word and English
simply fell speechless.

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13 thoughts on “Untranslatable Words”

  1. Here via Absolute Write. This is so cool!!

    A few I've never found an English equivalent for are qi (Mandarin approximately for "breath" or "life force," but that's not quite right; many martial artists use it untranslated) and there's a French term for that moment of stillness after you exhale but before you inhale (but it also has another, naughtier meaning that is more common, so I won't post it on your blog without asking 😉 ).

    There are also words in other languages that have so much cultural depth the English translations don't — such as the Chinese concept of "face;" we say "save face" with the same general denotative meaning, but "face" has SO much more importance and depth and complication in Chinese culture that I'm left explaining to Westerners, "You would translate it like 'saving face,' but MORE!"

    Great entry!!

  2. Ohhh… I am a bit intrigued to know more about this French word. LOL. You can say it.

    Thanks for sharing the other untranslatable words. I'm a big nerd for stuff like this. You made my day. 🙂

  3. The term is "la petite mort," and means, "the little death." It's a well-known euphemism for an orgasm, but also has a few other idiomatic meanings, my favorite one of which is the one I cited — a theatre teacher of mine used to talk about it when we did breathing exercises. 🙂

    I'm such a big nerd for this stuff, too!!

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