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  • María Palomares Tarí

THE HISTORY BEHIND 5 OF THE MOST BEAUTIFUL UNTRANSLATABLE WORDS




There are many terms that drip with feeling and emotion that are simply untranslatable into English. Actually, some time ago we brought together two amazing lists of unique words with no English equivalent, remember?


Today we’ve decided to add five more to those lists, but providing also the history behind them, because these beautiful terms are just worth it. By taking a closer look at them, you will get a glimpse into different cultures and belief systems that help to understand the people who speak these marvelous languages.

So just take a deep breath and enjoy!


Wabi-Sabi — Japanese In a few words, wabi sabi is the beauty of imperfect things. For Japanese, wabi sari is imperceptible but everywhere: a crack on a teapot or a misty landscape, for example. Rather than a word, it is a way of looking at things. Wabi-sabi reminds you that what makes things great isn’t merely external influence because everything is temporary and nothing is perfect.


Intricately linked to the notion of wabi-sabi lies Kintsugi, an old Japanese technique for repairing objects, which consists of mending the areas of breakage with lacquer mixed, or dusted, with gold powder, as a wish to celebrate the beauty of time passing, and as a metaphor of resilience — one may experience trauma, be damaged and then be reborn, more beautiful, and stronger.


Saudade — Portuguese A beautiful, bittersweet longing for something absent. Sausade could be something you’ve loved and lost… or something that might not even have happened at all! There are so many things to saudade. It is not nostalgia. It is not bitter-sweetness. It is saudade.


One very funny expression that it’s used in the Portuguese language with the word “saudade” is “matar saudades”, meaning “to kill saudades”. The “saudades” are killed when we’re with the person we’ve been missing or when we do something that we were missing doing.


Meraki — Greek In Greece today, when you pour your heart and soul into something you’re doing — when you leave a little bit of yourself in what you are doing — it’s meraki. Meraki, μεράκι, literally means "essence of ourselves”. You could tailor with meraki, cook with meraki, paint with meraki, build with meraki.


But its magic of this word does not end here! The term MeraKi contains the word Ki, which from Sanskrit, to Hebrew, as in Chinese and Korean, can be summarized into the Japanese translation of "vital energy”. In martial arts it indicates the ability to concentrate and direct personal power during combat. It expresses the continuous desire to grow and learn. We love it!


Yuánfèn — Mandarin Although it has been translated into many different English words, including fate, predestination, luck and serendipity, none of these words matches exactly the real meaning of Yuánfèn. This refers to the fateful coincidence that draws one person to love another person — is the fate, chance or binding force that brings this person and other people or objects together. The serendipity and destiny that the Chinese and Vietnamese believe bring people together in a sort of predestined love.

The term is strongly tied to the idea of relationships in China, both personal and business. It focuses more specifically on two people sharing a strong bond which draws them together, and does not necessarily relate to what they may or may not be fated to accomplish together.


Aspaldiko – Basque

The word aspaldiko describes the feeling of happiness when catching up with someone you haven’t seen in a long time. A beautiful concept that reminds us of the strength and resilience of the Basques. Traditionally whale hunters and seafarers, they would spend months or even years out at sea away from their loved ones.


As the oldest language in Europe, Euskara is vast and contains many words that are beyond our comprehension. Aspaldiko literally translates as “long ago”… and if you ever travel to the region, you’ll notice many restaurants being named after this word. Because that happiness and euphoria you get when you meet a good friend after a long time is like no other!




#UntranslatableWords #LanguageCulture #YOKOTranslate

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