WordFocus.com

focusing on words and literature

Ya’aburnee

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The Arabic word that is morbidly fascinating which translates to literally mean “You bury me.” It’s magic, however, lies in the incantation and implications associated with the word which declares not only one’s hope but also one’s love best defined by the desire to die before the other person because it would be terrible to [...]

Jayus

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The Indonesian slang word for that joke you attempted to tell but messed up the punchline. The word is “jayus.” Though this word has no English equivalent and is often one of the hardest words to translate, it ultimately means a joke so not funny and so terribly told that your audience has no choice [...]

Saudade

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There’s a Portuguese word which describes the intense longing for the past or lost possibility of a person, item, experience, place, event, or even an emotion that you love and an inward turn of desire for what can not exist in the present. The word is “Saudade.” Lacking in a direct translation, the word expresses [...]

Lagom

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Lagom is a Swedish word without a direct English translation. It’s meaning is “sufficient” or “just the right amount” but it is also largely translated to mean “optimal,” “in moderation,” “in balance,” and “appropriate though neither perfect nor imperfect amount.” This word also appears in Norwegian but has a different meaning which translates to “nice,” [...]

Ilunga

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Over 1,000 linguists have all agreed that the Congo/Bantu word “ilunga” is one of the hardest words to translate – if at all. Since 2004, people have attempted to convey this word’s meaning. The only way they have is through comparison with baseball’s principle of “three strikes and you’re out.” Essentially this word (roughly) translates [...]

Tchotchke

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In the early 1970s, a derivation from the Slavish “racka” and the obsolete Polish term “czaczko” for “trinket” was adapted by the Yiddish to result in the noun “Tchotchke.” It’s meaning is best understood by the Jewish Americans of primarily New York City (and beyond) who use the word to identify a miscellaneous bauble or [...]

Greng-jai

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The Thai have a word to describe that pit of the gut, heart wrenching feeling you have when life circumstances cast your thoughts into another’s shoes long enough to really see the dark side of your own demands and reflections. That all too familiar feeling has no English equivalent but in Thai, it is “Greng-jai.” [...]

Toska

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Toska is a Russian word used to express the broad spectrum of absolute spiritual distress. Russian-American author Vladmir Nabokov best defined the word as being from the lowest level, Toska represents a restlessness of the soul due to weariness, dissatisfaction, or boredom. In the mid-range level, it represents a dull soul ache or longing for [...]

Tu Me Manques

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The French have a way with words that the English and other languages lack. As a Romance language which derives from Vulgar Latin of the conquered during the time of the Roman Empire, there is a certain degree of disparity between written and spoken French. Despite this when the French speak from the heart, the [...]

Mamihlapinatapai

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In the Yaghan language of the Tierra del Feugo located in an archipelago off of the South American mainland, natives have a word which effectively conveys that look two people with a shared thought think but can’t, won’t, or don’t want to do. The word is “mamihlapinatapai” which is difficult to translate but meaningful never [...]