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20+ 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 2022 alone the Oxford English Dictionary added over 650 words, including influencer, side hustle and pangender.

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

It’s mind boggling, then, that we can write this article about words that we are missing. We can, and on many occasions have, asked 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.

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

“Sobremesa” (Spanish)

This Spanish word is used to describe the time spent at a dinner table chatting or drinking coffee after the meal is finished and the food is gone. This isn’t something we do so much in Britain, which would perhaps suggest why we don’t have a word for it. 

 

“Seigneur-terraces” (French)

Equally, the French have a phrase to describe those who spend hours chatting at a coffee-shop table but spend little to no money. 

 

“Kummerspeck” (German)

The Germans use this one to describe weight gained from emotional overeating. In English it literally translates to “grief bacon”…

 

“Shemomedjamo” (Georgian)

The Georgians then actually have a word for overeating, but more so in the context of a meal being so delicious that you can’t stop eating it, even if you’re full. Kind of like our “I accidentally ate the whole thing”, expect they just have a single word for it.

 

“Lagom” (Swedish)

Lagom refers to when something is just the right amount, just like Goldilocks. In Sweden it is also used to represent the idea of living a well-balanced life. 

 

“Gigil” (Filipino)

This essentially refers to when you find something so adorable or cute that the feeling overwhelms you, usually to the point where you wish to squeeze or hug the cute thing.

“Koi No Yokan” (Japanese)

This Japanese phrase refers to the feeling or premonition of knowing that, at some point, you are going to fall in love with someone as soon as you have met them. 

 

“Iktsuarpok” (Inuit)

Inuit is considered an Eskimo language. They use this phrase to describe the anticipation you feel before a guest arrives at your house and you keep going to the window or outside to check that they’ve not arrived yet. 

 

“Hygge” (Danish)

Considered to be Denmark’s mantra, Hygge is the phrase used to describe the feeling of pleasant comfort, contentment and intimacy when sitting around a fire with friends during winter. 

 

“Fernweh” (German) 

We technically do have the English equivalent with “wanderlust”, as this phrase means longing for a distant place. But, the German phrase encompasses longing for a place you’ve never been before. 

 

“Razbliuto” (Russian)

This Russian word describes the sombre, nostalgic feelings of no longer loving someone you once did. 

 

“Cafune” (Brazilian Portuguese)

They’re such a passionate bunch that they even have a word for running your fingers through your loved ones’ hair. 

 

“Cavoli Riscaldati” (Italian)

Another romance language having unique phrases relating to love. This one means to try to fix a broken relationship, and it directly translates to “reheated cabbage”, enough said. 

 

“Backpfeifengesicht” (German)

This word essentially translates to the phrase “a face looking for a smack”, or punch. 

 

“Fremdschämen” (German) and “Myötähäpeä” (Finnish)

Both of these words roughly mean to be embarrassed by someone else’s actions, or second-hand embarrassment.  

 

“Mencolek” (Indonesian)

Do you ever wish you had a singular word to describe tapping someone on the opposite shoulder to trick them? Well the Indonesian’s do! Mencolek means just that. 

 

“Vybafnout” (Czech)

The Czech’s love tomfoolery so much that they even created a word to describe jumping out and scaring your older brother. 

 

“Treppenwitz” (German) & “L’esprit de l’escalier” (French)

Ever been in a situation where you desperately needed a good comeback, but didn’t think of one until you had left the situation? The Germans and French both have a word for that. Both of these phrases essentially translate into “staircase joke/wit”, as you probably thought of the comeback after that fact and on the stairs…

 

“Jarrete” (Portuguese)

“Jarrete” literally means the “backs of the knee”. Us Brits would definitely benefit from having a singular word for the backs of the knees, perhaps we could have “kneepit” just like armpit?

 

“Tsundoku” (Japanese)

In Japan they have a word that describes the act of buying multiple new books, letting them pile up and never reading them. 

There are certainly many more words or phrases that we could add to this list that may exist in one language but have no direct translation into English. 

However. we do feel that us Brits would certainly benefit from having some of these words in our vocabulary, “grief bacon” simply doesn’t have the same effect as “Kummerspeck”. But until such times we have these words, we guess we will just have to continue putting that little more effort in to get our point across. 

If our list of 20+ words that the British language is missing has got you thinking about other phrases, then read our article on 20 business buzzwords and what they mean, or explore 80+ Spanish phrases that every British tourist should know before your next trip!


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