21 emotions that are unspeakable (in English)


Double click to enlarge

Pei-Ying Lin, a student at the Royal College of Art, drew a map of the emotions based on a standard work, W. Gerrold Parrott’s Emotional Classification, and then located 21 emotions without English names on the chart.

Cllck on The Unspeakableness for Pei-Ying Lin’s home page.

Click on The Untranslatable Words Database to see the 21 untranslatable emotions without the larger chart.

hat tip to how to save the world.


Bloggers for Expect Labs, a Silicon Valley company specializing in language understanding, speech analysis and statistical searches, came up with some more untranslatable words for emotions.

  • Meraki – Greek: doing something with love, soul, and creativity. Putting yourself into whatever you’re doing.
  • Ya’aburnee – Arabic: the hope that you’ll die before another person, because the difficulty of having to live without them. Literally translated as “you bury me.”
  • Nunchi – Korean: emotional intelligence, or the subtle art of listening and gauging another’s mood.
  • Gigil – Tagalog: an urge to pinch something that is cute.
  • Pena ajena – Mexican Spanish: the embarrassment felt by watching someone else being humiliated.
  • Voorpret – Dutch: the sense of enjoyment one feels in anticipation of an event.
  • La douleur exquise – French: the heart-wrenching pain of wanting someone you can’t have.
  • Waldeinsamkeit – German: the feeling of being alone in the woods. Described as peaceful, meditative, or at one with nature.

via Untranslatable Emotions.


Oliver Burkeman, writing in The Guardian, mentioned some more words for emotions without English equivalents, and raised the question of whether we can recognize feelings we cannot name.

The Danish word “hygge” (pronounced, very approximately, “hooga”) means something like “cosiness”, but with undertones of “camaraderie” and “well-being”.  Denmark’s tourist industry likes to suggest that it’s untranslatable and unexportable: the only way to feel it is to hop on a plane to Copenhagen. … …

Hard-to-translate emotions aren’t always positive, of course: the Portuguese “saudades” refers to a particular kind of longing, and the Korean “han” is a form of collectively felt resentment in the face of injustice, blended with lamentation.

But the sense of cosiness embodied by “hygge” is especially interesting because something like it occurs again and again in non-English languages: German “Gemütlichkeit” is similar, as is Czech “pohoda” and Dutch “gezelligheid”.  There is, it seems, significant demand for this kind of friendly, secure, usually home-based warmth.

Click on Are some emotions untranslatable?  to read Burkeman’s entire column.


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