Even the greatest wordsmiths have moments when they just can’t find the right word. Sometimes it’s because of a brain lapse, and other times, it’s because we’re just not sure what we’re trying to say. But sometimes, the word may just not exist in English. For those times when you’re literally at a loss for written words, don’t be afraid to use other languages as inspiration.
Take, for instance, that feeling of dread when you first see your bad haircut. The Japanese have a word for that: Age-tori. Or, that joke that’s so bad that so poorly told that you can’t help but laugh at it (“jayus” in Indonesian). And tell me that there shouldn’t be an English equivalent to this one: “Tartle,” the Scottish term for hesitating to introduce someone because you’ve forgotten his or her name.
Other intriguing words that just don’t exist in English:
1. Forelsket (Norwegian): The euphoria you experience when you are first falling in love
2. Ya’arburnee (Arabic): the hope that you will die before someone you love deeply because you cannot stand to live without them
3. Seigneur-terraces (French): coffee shop dwellers who sit at tables for a long time but spend little money
4. Murr-ma (Waigman): to walk alongside the water while searching for something with your feet
5. Gigil (Filipino): the urge to pinch or squeeze something unbearably cute
6. Tingo (Easter Island): the art of taking things from people’s homes one by one
7. Ikstuarpok (Inuit): the act of waiting so anxiously for someone to arrive at your house that you go to the window every few moments to see if they’ve arrived yet
8. Schlimazel (Yiddish): someone prone to bad luck. Parks and Recreation, anyone?
9. L’espirit de l’escalier (French): stairwell wit — a too-late retort thought of only after departure
10. Kummerspeck (German): excess weight gained from emotional overeating — literally, “grief bacon”
And if foreign languages don’t help you find the right word, there’s always the Roald Dahl route: make one up! Check out this article from the Oxford English Dictionary for a primer on his language, Gobblefunk.