Bilingual People Translate Their Favorite Phrases That Don't Exist In English


Cognates are words that can be used interchangeably between languages. But what about the opposite; words or phrases that have no English translation?

yosemite78atreddit asked ployglots of Reddit: What is your favourite foreign language phrase/word that doesn't exist in English?

Submissions have been edited for clarity, context, and profanity.

Just saying it is super satisfying.

Gigil. Pronounced gee-gill. It's a filipino word reffering to that feeling you get when you have that really strong urge to pinch/smush/bite? On something extremely cute. It also referred when you're so angry that you are almost or is shaking from the extreme feeling.


I can best describe it as Agnes in Despicable Me 1: "it's soo fluffy I'm gonna die!"


Thats pretty much exactly it lol


I want some.

"Geborgenheit" ist a word that as far as I know only exists in German. It describes the feeling of comfyness, security, home and a lot of other things at the same time.


"Geborgenheid" (now written with a D) is also a dutch word, with the same meaning.


"You're doing great, sweetie."

The Japanese word "ganbaru" is difficult to translate. From an English perspective, it sort of means several things at once.

  • "Do one's best"
  • "Work hard"
  • "Persevere"
  • "Hang in there"
  • "To persist"

It's all of these things at once. But we often translate it in to English as "good luck", because that's what we'd say in many situations in which "ganbaru" is used. But unlike "good luck", "ganbaru" directly implies that the person in question is or should make effort.


In Mandarin, especially in Taiwan, the phrase 加油 (jiayo, literally, "add oil") presents a very similar meaning. You use it to encourage people before performances or competitions, express that you care about them, comfort people, and even just as a something you say before saying goodbye. The lack of an English equivalent is interesting—this is so useful.

Also, we use "gambade" natively in Taiwanese (Minnan) as well—although I guess most people don't know what the original Japanese mean.


German for Ted Cruz. And of course there's a subreddit.

Backpfeifengesicht is a German word to describe someone with a very punchable face.


I love this.


A face that deserves a fist. I use it mostly for Paul Ryan.


Or Ted Cruz.


r/punchablefaces should now be called r/Backpfeifengesicht

It's actually a sub!



Lagom - Swedish, means not too much and not too little, just right. Origins from "laget om". It has to be enough left for everyone so just take your fair share.


The best thing about lagom is that the amount that is lagom isn't very precise. Saying something is "just right" means you nailed the amount down to the perfect amount. Lagom is also the perfect amount, but without being too picky about how much that is. You took 19% of the cake, and I took 17%, we both took a lagom amount. There's some leeway, but they're both still perfect.

It's a Bob Ross kind of word.


Such beauty in a word.



The sunlight that gets broken up by leaves on trees and hits the forest floor in distinguishable beams.




Specifically forest godrays.


English definitely adopted this one.

Schadenfreude. Happiness at the misfortune of others.


'Leedvermaak' in Dutch. If the Germans have a word for something, chances are the Dutch do too.


When "thank you" isn't enough, xinku.

A lot of East Asian languages seem to have this word that I've yet to find in English- I'm most familiar with it as the Mandarin 辛苦 (xinku), but I'm told that similar words exist in Cantonese and Japanese.

It means 'hard work/hard working', but you can also say it by itself when someone goes out of their way to help you. In that case it means "Thank you for the hard work you're doing". So like, if I f*cked up and got the reports to my co-worker late, and she had to stay after work to translate them, I'd say "Xinku, xinku". It's different from the more general 'thank you' in that it's especially thanking someone for doing work they don't have to do.


IIRC 辛苦/千辛万苦 is from th Buddhist concept of suffering, similar phrase in Korean 사고팔고 (四苦八苦.


We have a word for it too.

"запой" a Russian word describing a person that is heavy drinking for a very long time (could be couple days up to weeks).


In English that's just called a bender.


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