Untranslatable Words Contest

This year in honor of International Writing Centers Assosciation week, we held a contest where the community submitted their favorite unstranslatable words. We’d like to thank all of our participants! All the submissions are below, with their translations.

Congratulations to our first place winner Bri Lewis and second place winner Shreenidhi Surve!

Untranslatable Word Language Meaning
Thepla Gujarati A spicy paratha
Kaju katli Hindi Sweet cashewnut
Kanyadaan Hindi Giving away a bride
Utepils Norwegian Drinking outside on a sunny day
Duang Chinese An onomatopoeia first used by Jackie Chan. It means something suddenly becomes better than before.
Schadenfreude German Feeling joy from another’s pain
Taarof Farsi "Taarof" is a term that encompasses certain interactions and Persian etiquette. In brief, it's common to refuse – insistently – say, an offer for food or for someone to pay the restaurant bill (regardless of how hungry or broke you might be, respectively). You might describe in English the back- and-forth between the person who made the offer and the person who received the offer as "taarof-ing." This behavior is exceptionally common and can be excessive, and sometimes, before the taarof gets lengthy (as it really can), the person who made the offer might say "taarof nadige" (not sure how to actually spell this), which means "no taarof- ing."
Tsundoku Japanese The act of buying a book and leaving it criminally unread, often allowing it to pile up with other unread books
L’esprit d’escalier French Literally, the spirit of the staircase. But it means to think of the perfect reply after the moment has passed.
saudade Portueguese The feeling of longing for something or someone that you love and which is lost; deep feelings of nostalgia and melancholy for this lost object of your love
Hiraeth Welsh Longing for the homeland or the romanticized past; homesickness tinged with grief or sadness over the lost or departed. It is a mix of longing, yearning, nostalgia, and wistfulness
Vergangenheitsbewältigung German It means "Coming to terms with the past," especially in reference to Germany's heavy history.
Age-tori Japanese To look worse after a hair cut
Pålegg Norwegian Anything you can put on a slice of bread
Ajooma Korean A married woman
Yuan fen Chinese Fate/Destiny/Serendipity (between people)