10 commonly used words that don't have easy English translations

Many Canadians spend their winter months hunkered down indoors with loved ones, feeling content and generally at ease, but they may not have the perfect word to describe that feeling.

We asked Alberta@Noon listeners to share their favourite words from other languages

The English equivalent of the Frisian word ‘Noflick’ could be comfortable, cozy, pleasant or agreeable. There are many words that don’t have a direct English translation so we asked Alberta@Noon listeners to share their favourites. (Google Maps)

Many Canadians spend their winter months hunkered down indoors with loved ones, feeling content and generally at ease, but they may not have the perfect word to describe that feeling.

University of Alberta Scandinavian studies assistant professor Natalie Van Deusen says the Danes do — it's hygge.

"It's a sort of state of being — content, generally at ease. It's a state of being that arises from being in very pleasant social situations with people you're most comfortable with," Van Deusen told Alberta@Noon.

Natalie Van Deusen at the University of Alberta, left, and Mary Grantham O'Brien at the University of Calgary say there are words commonly used in other cultures that don’t have perfect English translations. (University of Alberta/University of Calgary)

Danish isn't the only language with unique phrases. University of Calgary German professor Mary Grantham O'Brien has the word for the weight you put on from stress-eating — kummerspeck, which literally translates to "grief bacon."

"It's those extra pounds we put on from eating emotionally," she said

Inspired by these words that might describe how you're feeling this holiday season, we asked Alberta@Noon listeners to share their favourite ones from other languages that don't have direct English equivalents.

Here's what some of them had to say.

  • Shoogle (Scottish): It means "a shake and a push at the same time," says Grant from Calgary.
  • Schadenfreude (German): Angela from Edmonton says "Schaden means misery and freude means joy, so when it's put together like that, it means 'taking joy in people's misery.'"
  • Craic (Irish): It is "kind of like hygge but less sedate. If you go out to a great party … and someone says 'how was it,' you would say it was great craic," Susan from Longview says.
  • Balae (Tagalog): "A term for what the parents of a couple call each other. I would call the parents of my daughter-in-law balae," explains Anita from Legal.
  • Hiraeth (Welsh): Cledwyn from Redwood Meadows says "a bad translation in the dictionary is 'longing.' Well it's more than that, it's the sort of trying to remember things from the past that are joyful."
  • Inte-lezi (Zulu): @marcusfilmz tweeted "You use it when you explain the purity of a baby, how they can survive in accidents or how animals usually shy away from attacking little babes. It actually teaches us how the universe protects the pure hearted."
  • Noflick (Frisian languages): "English words would be comfortable, cozy, pleasant, agreeable. If you had a pair of shoes that fit you really well or a pair of slippers, you'd say they are 'noflick,'" explains Ken from Camrose.
  • Apapachar (Mexican): @marcusfilmz on Twitter says it's a "Mexican (not Spanish) word … means to snuggle, cover in kisses, serve food, cuddle. From nahuatl papatzoa, to mash."

With files from Alberta@Noon

Do you have any favourite words in other languages that don't have easy English translations? Leave them in the comments below.


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