Emotions

20 Perfect Foreign Words for Very Specific Emotions

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When it comes to feelings, the English language can be severely limited. Sure, we might have approximately a quarter of a million words at our disposal, but where's the word for that drowsy feeling you get after eating a lot of food? Or what about the urge to pinch or squeeze something really cute?

Lucky for us, other languages have our back. These foreign-language feeling words aren't just fun trivia, either: A recent study by Dr. Tim Lomas suggests that learning 'well-being' vocabulary from other languages could enrich our emotional lives. That study shows there are at least 216 foreign words for positive emotions and feelings that we don't have in English, so basically, our emotional lives are about to get way richer.

1. Asabiyyah

Arabic: A sense of community spirit. Kind of like when you're in a group of people all singing together.

2. Iktsuarpok

Inuit: The anticipation of waiting for a guest to arrive. It's that feeling that leads you to peek through the curtains, check the door, and pace around your living room.

3. Gigil

Tagalog: An irresistible urge you get to pinch or squeeze someone because you love them so much (or because they're so cute).

4. Koi no yokan

Japanese: When you meet someone and feel like falling in love with them is inevitable. Aw!

5. Pretoogjes

Dutch: The twinkle in your eyes when you're making mischief. Literally: "fun eyes."

6. Tonglen

Tibetan: Giving and taking, or sending and receiving. "Inhaling" the suffering of others, transmuting it in one's heart, and 'exhaling' love, happiness, compassion, and joy to them.

7. Abbiocco

Italian: That sleepy, drowsy feeling just after a big meal. Hello, Thanksgiving afternoon nap! Now that we know the word for this feeling, you can tell your boss you'll be needing a post-lunch rest. "It's my abbiocco!"

8. Shemomedjamo

Georgian: This one comes before you hit abbiocco. It's the feeling of being really full, but still eating because food is so good. The direct translation: "I accidentally ate the whole thing."

9. Yuan bèi

Chinese: A feeling of complete accomplishment. So satisfying!

10. Waldeinsamkeit

German: The feeling of standing completely alone in the woods. It's a feeling of peace, contemplation, and being one with nature.

11. Shinrin-yoku

Japanese: Oh, you want more forest words? This one describes the relaxed feeling "forest bathing" can give you.

12. Saudade

Portuguese: A feeling of longing for something or someone you love and have lost.

13. Sarang

Korean: When you wish to be with someone until death.

14. Sukha

Sanskrit: Happiness that lasts — independent of your circumstances.

15. Lagom

Swedish: When the porridge (or whatever else) is not too hot, not too cold, but just right.

16. Mbuki-Mvuki

Swahili: The itching desire to take off your clothes while you dance.

17. Kilig

Tagalog: The butterflies you get when you interact with someone you find attractive.

18. Samar

Arabic: To sit together in conversation at sunset or in the evening.

19. Binnenpretje

Dutch: Literally, "inside fun." A private joke, or something that's enjoyed either by several people in secret or by you alone.

20. Deliciate

Old English: Let's end on one that just isn't used anymore. Deliciate means to luxuriate or thoroughly enjoy pleasure. Who votes to bring deliciating back?

The science isn't completely clear on whether language impacts our perception of the world. But Dr. Lomas says that at a minimum, identifying our emotions with language can help us remember those positive emotive experiences. He keeps a list of his "untranslatable" words, and it's expanding all the time. You can even study it for yourself online. Take a volta (leisurely stroll in Greek) through all the nice words you could start using on a daily basis.

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Got pretoogjes? Then check out "The Little Book of Foreign Swear Words" by Sid Finch. Just don't tell your mother. We handpick reading recommendations we think you may like. If you choose to make a purchase, Curiosity will get a share of the sale.

Written by Kelsey Donk September 6, 2019

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