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A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

9 Beautifully Quirky Foreign Words That We’re Jealous We Can’t Say In English

Can you say "the distance a reindeer can travel before needing to rest" in just one word? The Finns do. Here, more magical words that pack volumes of meaning into few letters.

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Ella Frances Sanders

Mangata (Swedish): The road-like reflection of the moon in the water

Perhaps people don’t notice these glimmering, lyrical moments enough anymore, but the way the moon reflects and leaps across the black water of the ocean at night is surely a sight to behold. These are the 6 romantic words with no English translations.

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Ella Frances Sanders

Akihi (Hawaiian): Listening to directions and then walking off and promptly forgetting them

When they explained how to get there, their directions all made perfect sense—you nodded and looked back with clear understanding. Then you parted ways, and now you can’t remember whether to take a left or a right.

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Ella Frances Sanders

Commuovere (Italian): To be moved in a heartwarming way, usually related to a story that moved you to tears

Maybe you had a single tear rolling down your cheek, maybe you were crying for days afterward. Touching and powerful stories hit you in the most inexplicable, unexpected, and undeniably human ways.

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Ella Frances Sanders

Komorebi (Japanese): The sunlight that filters through the leaves of the trees

It may be temporarily blinding, but it’s most definitely beautiful. There is something wonderfully evocative and uniquely magical about sunlight filtered through green foliage.

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Ella Frances Sanders

Glas wen (Welsh): A “blue smile,” one that is sarcastic or mocking

Those sarcastic smiles are not so easy to escape. They make you squirm a little and leave you wishing that you could ust slip away without having to return an awkward half-smile.

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Ella Frances Sanders

Kilig (Tagalog): The feeling of butterflies in your stomach, usually when something romantic or cute takes place

You know exactly what this is. Once it’s taken hold, there’s no stopping that can’t-think-straight, smiling-for-no-reason, spine-tingling feeling that starts somewhere deep inside the walls of your stomach.

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Ella Frances Sanders

Luftmensch (Yiddish): Refers to someone who is a bit of a dreamer; literally means “air person”

Your head is in the clouds and you aren’t coming down anytime soon. You’re living in a dream world—the 9-to-5 has no place here and paperwork doesn’t exist at this attitude. So it’s out with reality and in with the impractical.

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Ella Frances Sanders

Tretar (Swedish): A second refill of coffee, or a “threefill”

Whether you read this and think, “Only three cups?” or you don’t understand how it’s possible to stomach even one cup of coffee, let alone three, you have to admit that this is a very logical and efficient word.

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Ella Frances Sanders

Tsundoku (Japanese): Leaving a book unread after buying it, typically piled up together with other unread books

The tsundoku scale can range from just one unread book to a serious hoard, so you are most likely guilty of it. As intellectual as you may look tripping over an unread copy of Great Expectations on your way to the front door, those pages probably deserve to see the daylight.

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Ella Frances Sanders

Lost in Translation

The charming book Lost in Translation shows you the poetry and beauty of the world’s languages, with illustrated definitions of more than 50 words that do not have direct English translations.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest