Untranslatable romantic words from around the world

It’s Valentine’s Day once again, the time of the year when romance is in the spotlight and declarations of love are all over social networks. While love is a universal emotion, romantic words have unique connotations and nuances in different languages. This is because culture can have a profound impact on the way in which people display, perceive and experience emotions. We’ve collected words and phrases about love from around the world that have no direct English translation.

1. ‘Saudade’

(Sah-oo-dad)
Portuguese

An intense nostalgic longing for someone you once loved whose return is unknown and left entirely to fate.

2. ‘Cavoli riscaldati’

(Kah-vo-lee ris-kal-da-tee)
Italian

A funny expression which literally means “reheated cabbage”, this phrase figuratively means, “an attempt to revive a failed love affair or relationship”.

3. ‘Kilig’

(Kee-leeg)
Tagalog

The thrill and giddy feeling when you interact with your crush or when the person you love does something sweet and romantic.

4. ‘Yuánfèn’

(Yoo-en fuhn)
Chinese

The belief that two (or more) people are brought together by fate or chance. This concept can be applied to any relationship, either romantic, personal or business.

5. ‘Naz’

(Nahz)
Urdu

The pride and confidence you feel when you know that you are someone’s object of desire and affection.

6. ‘Koi no yokan’

(Koy-no-yo-kahn)
Japanese

A premonition of love, but different from “love at first sight”. It’s the feeling upon meeting someone and knowing that love could be on the cards.

7. ‘Ya’aburnee’

(Yaq-ber-ni)
Arabic

A beautiful yet morbid word that literally means “you bury me”, this Levantine Arabic phrase expresses a desire for your significant other to pass before you because life without them would be unbearable.

8. ‘La douleur exquise’

(La doo-leur ex-keez)
French

Literally translated as “the exquisite pain”, it describes the heart-wrenching pain of longing for someone you can’t be with.

9. ‘Viraha’

(Vee-rah-ha)
Hindi

A word found in Sanskrit, it is the fact and realization of love through separation.

10. ‘Onsra’

(Uhns-rah)
Bodo (India)

A bittersweet phrase that roughly means, “to love for the last time”, it expresses the heartbreaking moment when you know love won’t last.

11. ‘Geborgenheit’

(Geh-bor-gen-hait)
German

The emotional security, comfort and well-being that one feels particularly with someone they love.

12. ‘Mamihlapinatapai’

(Ma-mee-la-pee-nah-tah-pai))
Yaghan (Chile)

An unspoken moment or look shared by two people, each wishing that the other would make a move. Fun fact: This word is also registered in the Guinness Book of World Records as the most succinct word, yet it’s also one of the hardest to translate.

Are there any other hard-to-translate words in your language that describe love and relationships? Share them with us!

Emoji art supplied by EmojiOne


Jenie Gabriel

The author

Jenie Gabriel

Jenie creates and coordinates content for Gengo's marketing team. Originally from the Philippines, she was an advertising creative in Singapore before moving to Tokyo. In her spare time, you’ll find her wandering around the city or planning her next escapade.


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