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Nine words that don’t exist in English but should

Revised: September 2021

Here at Matinée Multilingual, our team of translators and voice artists are fascinated by languages, but sometimes even the finest translators come up against words that defy translation from their native tongue to English.

Sometimes it’s impossible to perfectly capture the exact meaning of a word in a foreign language, leaving us with ‘untranslatable words’. Some of these words give us a fascinating glimpse into other cultures, like the Urdu noun goya (“the moment when fantasy is so realistic that it temporarily becomes reality”), or komorebi, the Japanese term for the sunlight streaming through the leaves of trees. 

Other times, untranslatable words offer fun terms that we wish existed in English. So, here’s the list of our favourite nine words that don’t exist in English, but really should.

Words That Don't Exist in English

1. Backpfeifengesicht (Bach-faif-en-ge-zisht)

It’s a German word that describes the kind of face that people want to hit. We’ve all come across someone with a backpfeifengesicht haven’t we?


2. Shemomedjamo (shemo-med-jamo)

You know that feeling when you’re enjoying a delicious meal so much that even though you’re really full, you just can’t stop eating. The Georgians feel your pain – so much so that they created a word for it. Shemomedjamo means “I accidentally ate the whole thing.”

yummy food

3. Jayus (Jay-oos)

Jayus is an Indonesian word meaning a joke so poorly told and so unfunny that one cannot help but laugh.


4. Skjerp deg (shyp-dag)

This is a wonderful word from Norway which is used to say “you’re making an idiot of yourself”, or “sharpen yourself up”, or “stop it, you’re obviously lying”. Skjerp deg!

stop lying

5. Tsundoku (tsoon-doh-koo)

This is a Japanese word that so needs an English translation. It describes the act of leaving a book unread after buying it, typically piling it up together with other such unread books. Who isn’t guilty of Tsundoku, I know I am. I wonder whether the kindle equivalent is e-Tsundoku?


6. Pelinti (Pe-leen-tee)

This word comes from the Buli language from Ghana. It describes that thing we do when we put a piece of food in your mouth that’s too hot – it literally means “to move hot food around in your mouth”.

miranda - hot food

7. Hyppytyynytyydytys (hyp-ya-teyrna-teyrna-dish)

No list of foreign language words that need an English translation would be complete without at least one Finnish word. My favourite is hyppytyynytyydytys which means “bouncy cushion satisfaction”. Can’t you just imagine collapsing into your favourite chair after a long and exhausting day and saying, “ah, hyppytyynytyydytys”.

comfy cat

8. Abbiocco (Ab-bioc-co)

Another food related word, this time from the Italians (who else). Abbiocco is a wonderful word that describes the drowsiness experienced after eating a big meal.


9. Tingo (Tin-go)

The last in our list, and our favourite simply because it describes something so strange. How the people of Easter Island in the South Pacific ever thought they needed a word for it is just too bizarre. Tingo means “the act of taking objects one desires from the house of a friend by gradually borrowing all of them”. How did that ever need a word?


Can you top any of these? If you can, let us know by tweeting us or adding a comment on our Facebook page. Perhaps you need one of our brilliant translators to help you? Get in touch with us today to find out how our expert team can help you!

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