These Charming Illustrations Depict Untranslatable Words From Other Languages

Marija Tiurina is a talented U.K.-based artist who has created a new series of illustrations called “Untranslatable Words.”  The charming illustrations convey something that English just doesn’t have a word for, yet. 

The English language is a rich vocabulary with well over one million words.  It may fall short in some areas.  All language is an abstraction and we simply decide on associating a word with a concept or thing (take “on fleek” for example).   Therefore, the concepts represented in any language are a reflection of the creativity of the people speaking it.   So, while English has some great words, there are some words in other languages that express things English has yet to do.


Cafuné (Brazilian Portuguese)

Cafuné: The act of tenderly running fingers through someone’s hair.

Palegg (Norwegian) 

Palegg: Anything and everything that you can put on a slice of bread.

Gurfa (Arabic) 

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Gurfa: The amount of water that can be held in a hand.

Schlimazel (Yiddish)

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Schlimazel: A chronically unlucky person.

Duende (Spanish) 

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Duende: The mysterious power that a work of art has to deeply move a person.

Kyoikumama (Japanese)

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Kyoikumama: A mother who relentlessly pushes her children toward academic achievement.

L’appel Du Vide (French) 

L’appel Du Vide: “The call of the void” is this expression’s literal translation, but more significantly it’s used to describe the instinctive urge to jump from high places.

Luftmensch (Yiddish)

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Luftmensch: Refers to someone who is a bit of a dreamer, and literally means “air person.”

Tretar (Swedish)

Tretar: On its own, “tar” means “a cup of coffee” and “patar” is the refill of said cup. A “tretar” is the second refill, or “threefill.”

Torschlusspanik (German)

Torschlusspanik: “Gate-closing panic,” or the fear of diminishing opportunities as one ages.

Tingo (Pascuense – Language of Easter Island) 

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Tingo: The act of taking objects one desires from the house of a friend by gradually borrowing all of them.

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