University of East London pysch professor Tim Lomas has assembled a list of words referring to emotional states from the world's languages that have no correlate in English.
In Towards a positive cross-cultural lexicography: Enriching our emotional landscape through 216 ‘untranslatable’ words pertaining to well-being, published this year The Journal of Positive Psychology, he sets out the hypothesis that familiarizing yourself with these words could "enrich [our] experiences of well-being."
Whether or not that turns out to be true, the list is fascinating. Some favorites below, a surprising number of which are the names of well-known products, projects, or titles:
* S'apprivoiser (French) (v.): lit, 'to tame', but a mutual process - both sides slowly learning to trust the other and eventually accepting each other.
* Aware (哀れ) (Japanese): the bittersweetness of a brief, fading moment of transcendent beauty.
* Borrel (Dutch): informal party or revelry.
* Brav (German): children who are pleasant, earnest, and well-behaved.
* Cafune (Portuguese): tenderly running one’s fingers through a loved one’s hair.
* Coup de foudre (French): lit, a 'lightening bolt', sudden and powerful love at first sight.
* Dadirri (Australian Aboriginal): a deep, spiritual act of reflective and respectful listening.
* Desenrascanço (Portuguese): to artfully disentangle oneself from a troublesome situation.
* Engelengeduld (Dutch): the patience of an angel.
* Estrenar (Spanish): to use or wear something for the first time.
* Feierabend (German): festive mood at the end of a working day.
* Fernweh (German): the ‘call of faraway places,’ homesickness for the unknown.
* Fingerspitzengefühl (German): ‘fingertip feeling,’ the ability to act with tact and sensitivity.
* Gemütlich (German): cosiness, homeliness.
* Gjensynsglede (Norwegian): (noun) The joy of meeting someone you haven't seen in a long time.
* Guān xì (關係) (Chinese): building up good social karma.
* Janteloven (Norwegian/Danish): a set of rules which discourages individualism in communities.
* Jugaad (जुगाड) (Hindi): the ability to 'make do' or 'get by'.
* Kintsugi (金継ぎ) (Japanese): literally, 'golden joinery' (the art of repairing broken pottery using gold), metaphorically meaning to render our flaws and fault-lines beautiful and strong.
* Koi no yokan (恋の予感) (Japanese): the feeling on meeting someone that falling in love will be inevitable.
* Koselig (Norwegian): cosy, warm, intimate, enjoyable.
* Kvell (Yiddish): to feel pride and joy in someone else's accomplishment.
* Mbuki-mvuki (Bantu): to shed clothes to dance uninhibited.
* Mono no aware (物の哀れ) (Japanese): pathos of understanding the transiency of the world and its beauty.
* On (恩) (Japanese): a feeling of moral indebtedness, relating to a favour or blessing given by others.
* Peiskos (Norwegian): sitting in front of a crackling fireplace enjoying the warmth.
* Pihentagyú (Hungarian): ‘with a relaxed brain,’ being quick-witted and sharp.
* Sabi (侘寂) (Japanese): aged beauty.
* Shemomechama (შემომეჭამა) (Georgian): eating past the point of satiety due to sheer enjoyment.
* Sisu (Finnish): extraordinary determination in the face of adversity.
* Tîeow (เที่ยว) (Thai): to roam around in a carefree way.
* Tyvsmake (Norwegian) (verb): to taste or eat small pieces of the food when you think nobody is watching, especially when cooking.
* Ubuntu (Nguni Bantu): being kind to others on account of one’s common humanity.
* Yutta-hey (Cherokee): ‘it is a good day to die,’ leaving life at its zenith, departing in glory.
The positive lexicography project [Tim Lomas]
(Image: 2002 kenrokuen hanami 0123, Chris Spackman, CC-BY-SA)