Unique words


In most languages you will find words that are unique to that language and/or culture. 

 

Albanian

  • hundekuq: a bulbous nose, red at the tip 
  • kacadre: a moustache with turned-up ends
  • vetullhen: an eyebrow arched like the crescent moon
  • pagezuar: the state of dying before enjoying the happiness that comes with being married or seeing one’s children married

Bosnian

  • gunj: a vest worn by the shepherds during winter, made from sheep skin

Catalan

  • seny: a combination of well-pondered perception of situations, level-headedness, awareness, integrity and right action

Croatian

  • pivopija: someone who likes to drink beer, literally "beer drinker"

Czech

  • prozvonit: to call someone's mobile from your own without the other person picking up with the intention of leaving your number in their phone's memory

Danish

  • hyggelig: its “literal” translation into English gives connotations of a warm, friendly, cozy demeanor

Dutch

  • gezellig: depending on context, can be translated as convivial, cosy, fun, quaint, or nice atmosphere, but can also connote belonging, time spent with loved ones, the fact of seeing a friend after a long absence, or general togetherness. The word is considered to be an example of untranslatability, and is one of the hardest words to translate to English.
  • broodje-aap: an awful, often invented story that is told as being true, thus becoming a myth. Literally: a monkey-meat sandwich 
  • regelneef: a person who loves organizing even without being asked to

English

  • higgledy-piggledy: disordered, jumbled, not neat and tidy. According to Oxford Dictionary, probably used initially with reference to the disordered herding together of pigs
  • dilly-dally: to move or act too slowly

Estonian

  • koerailm: cat-and-dog weather; really bad weather
  • kalailm: good weather for fishing

Finnish

  • hiukaista: to feel hungry for something salty 
  • poronkusema: the distance equal to how far a reindeer can travel without a comfort break (about 5 kilometres) (literally, reindeer’s piss)
  • kuunsilta: the long reflection of the moon when it is low in the sky and shining on the calm surface of a lake (literally, moon bridge)

French

  • yaourt: English pop music sung without any understanding of the meaning; singing to create something that sounds like English pop music but actually isn’t (literally, yoghurt)
  • metro-boulot-dodo: the daily grind (literally, ‘tube-work-sleep’)
  • chabrot: to put red wine in your soup, when there is little soup left

German

  • Zechpreller: someone who leaves without paying the bill 
  • Ohrwurm: a catchy tune that gets stuck in the brain or a tune that rapidly obsesses an entire population (literally, an ear worm) 
  • Torschlusspanik: the fear of diminishing opportunities as one gets older, especially the fear of not having a relationship or becoming too old for a baby
  • Gemütlichkeit: feeeling comfortable, like in one's home
  • Schadenfreude: pleasure derived by someone from another person’s misfortune

Greek

  • kamáki: the young local guys strolling up and down beaches hunting for female tourists (literally, harpoons)
  • μάγκας/mangas is a young man who is very self-confident and behaving in a macho way but still being respected and even admired by others.
  • meraki: doing something with soul, creativity, or love: putting something of yourself into what you're doing
  • filotimo: 

    the intense feeling of personal honour and dignity

Hungarian

  • csókolgat: to shower with kisses
  • verbunkos: a dance performed to persuade people to enlist in the army     

Icelandic

  • eldhus-fifi (Old Icelandic): an idiot who sits all day by the fire
  • af-vegar (Old Icelandic): fallen on the back and unable to rise
  • féauðnu-maðr (Old Icelandic): a man lucky with his sheep

Irish

  • plubairnigh: a verb specifically used to describe that distinctive thick, bubbling sound that porridge makes when it is boiling. "Bhí an leite ag plubairnigh sa phota" ("The porridge was 'plubairnigh-ing' in the pot").

Italian

  • mammismo: maternal control and interference that continues into adulthood
  • abiocco: deriva dal verbo abioccare, abiocarsi, nella maggioranza dei casi definisce lo stato di sonnolenza, di affaticamento

Latvian

  • vientuliba: loneliness, solitude

Lithuanian

  • žlugtas: laundry which is watered before washing
  • brekšti: a verb which is used to describe a moment between the night and the dawn
  • rymoti: to lean on something (arms, fence, etc.) for some time
  • brukti: to suggest something in a very annoying and irksome way
  • davatka: a person who is too pious and likes to gossip

Norwegian

  • kram snø: snow which is sticky (excellent for making snow-balls and snowmen)
  • fiskevaer: good weather for fishing
  • sjøstygg: being so ugly that the tide won’t come in, if you’re on the shore (literally, sea ugly)
  • giftekniv: a person trying to get two people married

Portuguese

  • chico-esperto: used to describe someone who is smart enough to take advantage of situations even if damaging someone else's interests
  • lesma: used to characterise someone who is slow at doing things (literally, being as slow as a slug)
  • coscuvilhice / cusquice: gossiping and/or trying to malitiously enter one's privacy to get to know and speculate about private life specially of socialites
  • saudade: homesickness, longing, missing, heartache, nostalgia
  • desenrascanço: capacity to get oneself out of trouble or one who is clever enough to improvise creative solutions to seemingly impossible situations. The closest English equivalents are the colloquial "hack"
  • compincha: someone who is always ready to join in a programmme of fun or drinks

Romanian

  • dor: a feeling of melancholy as a result of the desire to see someone or something you love

Russian

  • zastrich: to cut one’s nails too short 
  • deryabnut’:  to drink quickly in order to warm up
  • dakat’: to keep saying yes
  • teplushka: heated goods van used for carrying people
  • zakurit’sya: to make oneself ill by excessive smoking
  • zalipat: stand at gaze

Spanish

  • chupotero: a person who works little but has several salaries
  • piropo: a compliment paid on the street (which ranges from polite to raunchy)
  • vergüenza ajena: feeling of shame on behalf of someone else
  • sobremesa: sitting on after a meal
  • malaje: saying about a person: disagreeable, that has bad (wrong) shade 
  • jajajear: to laugh in a mocking way 
  • repeío: a person who is very pompous and considers others in a lower level than him/her

Swedish

  • lappsjuka: a melancholy through being so isolated
  • fika: coffee-break or an overall word for buns and other snacks that you eat on coffee-breaks
  • lagom: not too little or not too big, just right
  • myrornas krig: when the television screen turns black and white (with spots) it looks like ants are having a war
  • mångata: the glimmering, roadlike reflection that the moon creates on water

Welsh

  • cwtch: an affectionate hug - provide a 'safe' place in someone's arms, a rather special one, blessed with the warmth and generosity of the Welsh, a truly free flowing expression of love and acceptance


The concept and original examples featured on this page have been provided by Adam Jacot de Boinod

Do you know a unique word that should be on this page? Please send it to us!


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