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Six Words the English Language Is Desperately Missing

Aug 2014

Language ,

5 Words the English Language is Missing

The English language is great. It has thick roots in Latin, French and German. Upon that polyglot skeleton it adopted parts from Greek, Old Norse, Norman, Dutch, Indian, Hebrew, Japanese and countless others. Through this it adopted ideas, ways of speaking and ways of framing the world.

Don’t think English isn’t creative, though. It’s a language that invents a new word every 98 minutes. In June alone the Oxford English Dictionary added over 150 words, including bezzie, selfie and flexitarian.

It is a language that a mere five years ago casually meandered over the 1,000,000-word landmark.

It’s mindboggling, then, that I can write this article about words that we are missing. I can, and on many occasions have, asked my foreign friends what words they wish English had. They don’t even have to think for long before reeling off an arm-length list of concepts and ideas that we just don’t have a word for.

I tend to ask people that question a lot and I’ve taken to jotting down some of my favourites. So, here’s my favourite six words we don’t have a word for.


Cafune – Brazilian

Courtesy of the rather romantic Brazilians is the word ‘cafune.’ Cafune is the act of tenderly running your fingers through your loved one’s hair.

Trust the Brazilians to have the nicest word on the list!

Rhwe – Tsonga

Rhwe comes from Tsonga, a language spoken by almost 2 million people across South Africa, Mozambique, Swaziland and Zimbabwe.

If you wake up with raspy throat, splitting headache and an intense feeling of regret, this word might be for you. Rhwe is the lovely act of falling asleep on the floor while drunk and naked.

Hopefully it’s a word you won’t have to use too often!

Iktsuarpok – Inuit

You know when you’re waiting for someone to come round to your house and you keep going outside to check if anyone is arriving? Well apparently Inuit has a word for that and ‘iktsuarpok’ is that word!

Übermorgen – German

The day after tomorrow. English takes four words to say that. German takes one – ‘übermorgen.’ German isn’t alone, there’s hundreds of other languages with a single word for ‘the day after tomorrow.’ The French say ‘après-demain,’ Serbs say ‘prekosutra’ and Georgians say ‘zeg.’

It seems like such a simple thing to have a word for. So, where’s the English equivalent?

Well we did have a word for it. For a long time English had ‘today,’ ‘tomorrow’ and ‘overmorrow’ but somewhere along the line ‘overmorrow’ fell out of fashion and people stopped using it. Which is a shame because “I’ll catch you overmorrow” has such a nice ring to it.

Pelinti – Buili

You know when you get a pizza, pie or pastry and it looks too hot to eat? Well do you remember when you ignore what your eyes are telling you and you take a big bite of it? Well do you remember how you sort of tilt your head, make a weird sound and try and avoid all contact with the hot food?

Well soothe the stinging of your tongue with the knowledge that Buili has a word for this! In the Indian language ‘pelinti’ means to shift hot food around your mouth. It’s good to know that people on the other side of the world are just as impatient as I am.

Vybafnout – Czech

All you fellow older siblings out there, this one’s for you. This lovely little word from Czech means to jump out and shout boo.

Now you can explain to your parents that you weren’t annoying your younger brothers and sisters, you were just practicing your Czech!

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