Untranslatable Words for Your Holiday

Before you jet off on holiday, you might want to pack a few untranslatable words to get you through those times when using the English words - only LOUDER - just won’t cut it.

Matador network offer a helpful list of 20 Awesomely Untranslatable Words from Around the World, beginning the tour with Russian stopover: toska. They cite Vladimir Nabokov’s definition:

“No single word in English renders all the shades of toska. At its deepest and most painful, it is a sensation of great spiritual anguish, often without any specific cause. At less morbid levels it is a dull ache of the soul, a longing with nothing to long for, a sick pining, a vague restlessness, mental throes, yearning. In particular cases it may be the desire for somebody of something specific, nostalgia, love-sickness. At the lowest level it grades into ennui, boredom.”

Perhaps not one for beach holiday.

What about a Czech stopover with litost? It’s the word that Milan Kundera struggled to define: “As for the meaning of this word, I have looked in vain in other languages for an equivalent, though I find it difficult to imagine how anyone can understand the human soul without it.” The best definition Matador could come up with is “a state of agony and torment created by the sudden sight of one’s own misery” which also probably won’t be used much during a week in Bali.

Perhaps you should make for Brazil and engage in some cafuné, “the act of tenderly running one’s fingers through someone’s hair”. If all goes well with the hair stroking, you might find yourself using the somewhat dark Arabic Ya’aburnee an “incantatory word [that] means ‘You bury me’, a declaration of one’s hope that they’ll die before another person because of how difficult it would be to live without them”.

We hope that your holiday romance doesn’t end with the Portuguese word saudade, which “refers to the feeling of longing for something or someone that you love and which is lost.”

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