Lost In Translation LanguagesThanks to the British Empire and laterly the rise of the American hegemony English is pretty much THE World language. By some estimates the English language has more than a million words and it’s generally agreed that no other language has nearly as many.

So you would think that English must have a word for everything, right? No – Not even close.

In this article we look at some words in other languages that just seem to defy translation into English.

noun : that sleepy feeling you get after a big meal

Everyone has succumbed to drowsiness after a meal at one time or another, but only the Italians have enshrined the phenomenon in a single word. When you wish you could take a nap after lunch, you’re “having the abbiocco” (avere l’abbiocco).

noun : the ability to improvise a quick solution

Desenrascanço is the modus operandi of any high-functioning procrastinator. Not only does it mean to solve a problem or complete a task, it means doing so with a completely improvised solution.

adjective : comfy, cozy; intimate; contented

Do you ever wish there was one word to combine everything snuggly, safe, friendly and caring? The Danes have it covered with hyggelig. The word is used so often in daily life that many Danes consider it part of the national character.

noun : after-lunch conversation around the table

The Spanish are known for enjoying long meals together, but eating isn’t just about food. When you stay at the table after lunch in order to savour a final course of stimulating conversation, you are indulging in sobremesa.

noun : a beer you drink outside

Norwegians must endure a long, dark winter before they can enjoy the brilliant, but brief, summer. So a beer that you can drink outside, while absorbing the sun’s glorious rays, is not just going to be any old beer.

verb : to make something worse when trying to improve it

We’ve all done this before: by trying to fix a small problem we create a bigger problem.

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noun : the reflection of moonlight on water

No matter which language you speak, from time to time you probably admire the moon’s reflection on a body of water. But unless you’re Turkish or Swedish it’s impossible to describe this beauty with a single word. The Swedish mångata literally translates to “moon-road”, an aptly poetic description.

Turkish also has a very specific word, gümüşservi, but it’s not really used in everyday speech. It’s far more common to call the moon’s reflection on water yakamoz, which can be used to describe any kind of light reflecting on water, or even the sparkle of fish.