There are hundreds of positive emotions that have no direct English translation — Quartz

Volta, a Greek word describing a leisurely stroll down the street. Jugaad, a Hindi term meaning the ability to get by. Gumusservi: Turkish for the subtle glimmer that moonlight makes on water.

Too little of the world’s astoundingly rich lexicon for feelings of beauty, positivity, and well-being exists in English alone. As such, University of East London psychology lecturer Tim Lomas has corralled some of the most striking non-English words about emotions for Westerners to appreciate. While the words describe phenomena experienced and celebrated by many cultures, no easily-expressible equivalents exist in English.

Lomas published 216 of these so-called “untranslatable” words in the Journal of Positive Psychology last week aiming to both “help expand the emotional vocabulary of English speakers” and “provide a window onto cultural differences in constructions of well-being”; the words are also neatly laid out on his website by theme.

Here are some of the loveliest, alongside translations by Lomas into their nearest-possible English definition:

  • Ah-un (Japanese)Unspoken communication between close friends
  • Að jenna (Icelandic): The ability to persevere through hard or boring tasks
  • Cafune (Portuguese): Tenderly running fingers through a loved one’s hair
  • Fargin (Yiddish): To glow with pride at the success of others
  • Gökotta (Swedish): Waking up early to hear the first birds sing
  • Gula (Spanish): The desire to eat simply for the taste
  • Iktsuarpok (Inuit): The anticipation felt when waiting for someone
  • Kreng-jai (Thai): The wish to not trouble someone by burdening them
  • Mbuki-mvuki (Bantu): To shed clothes to dance uninhibited
  • Querencia (Spanish): A secure place from which one draws strength
  • Santosha (Sanskrit): Contentment arising from personal interaction
  • Sarang (Korean): The wish to be with someone until death
  • Schnapsidee (German): An ingenious plan hatched while drunk
  • Seijaku (Japanese): Serenity in the midst of chaos
  • Sobremesa (Spanish): When the food is gone but the conversation is still flowing
  • Tarab (Arabic): Musically-induced ecstasy or enchantment
  • Toska (Russian): A wistful longing for one’s homeland
  • Uitwaaien (Dutch): Walking in the wind for fun
  • Waldeinsamskeit (German): A mysterious feeling of solitude in the woods
  • Yuan fen (Chinese): A binding force impelling a destined relationship
  • Yutta-hey (Cherokee): Leaving life at its zenith; departing in glory.

Lomas notes in the journal article that he plans to pursue further research on the potential benefits of his positive, emotional, “cross-cultural lexicography.” Offering readers these small glimpses of linguistic beauty seems a good start.

https://qz.com/605935/there-are-hundreds-of-positive-emotions-that-have-no-direct-english-translation/

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Published by Miranda

Translator and consultant with more than 10 years of experience translating commercial and technical documents from English, Mandarin Chinese and Italian to Spanish and guiding companies in their quest to become global businesses.

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