11 Untranslatable Words in English (That You Won't Find in Other Languages) - Justlearn (2023)

One of the most interesting things about learning a new language is discovering the many beautiful and unique words that the language contains.

The English language contains a lot of unique words that sometimes have not real equivalent in any other languages. These untranslatable words in English may initially be confusing, but they are also interesting to learn (andsometimes funny too!)

If you need a short break from memorizing lists of common words and phrases in English, you might want to look at this shortlist of untranslatable words in English and their meanings. Who knows, you might find yourself wanting to use some in conversation. If you do use them properly, you will definitely impress the native speakers and make them more comfortable around you.

1. Cheesy

Meaning: False or trying too hard

This is an English slang word that is usually used to describe a person or an action that seems insincere or false. Something that is “cheesy” is trying too hard to be liked or likable.

For example, a “cheesy grin” is a smile that is meant to be integrating but seems too big and wide and fake so it just makes you dislike or regard someone with suspicion. A “cheesy romantic comedy” is a romantic comedy that is trying too hard to be cute or that has characters or situations that are too sweet and unbelievable.

2. Serendipity

Meaning: Happy accident

This English word is considered quite beautiful, and its meaning is nice as well. Serendipity is the state of “accidentally” finding something that is pleasant or desirable.

The word was first used by the 18th-century British writer Horace Walpole in a folk tale he wrote about the “princes of Serendip”. These three princes were always making discoveries by accident, finding things they were not in quest of”.

Because of Walpole’s writing, the word “serendipity” evolved into “serendipity” and came to mean making a pleasant discovery by accident.

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3. Gobbledygook

Meaning: Nonsense

Does this word sound nonsensical? Well, it literally is. Gobbledygook is a funny-sounding “nonsense” term that has come to mean unintelligible jargon or rambling.

The term is supposed to have come into popular use during World War II. An American congressman named Maury Maverick reportedly used it in a memo in 1944 where he banned the “gobbledygook language”. By this, he meant that people shouldn’t use too much-specialized jargon that couldn’t be understood by laypersons.

It’s thought that Maverick was thinking about the turkey when he coined this phrase, a silly, rather stupid-looking bird that made a noise referred to as “gobble” or “gobbling”.

So, if someone tells you to stop speaking “gobbledygook” they are basically saying that you are not making sense or are speaking nonsense.

4. Pimp

Meaning: Someone who sells women for sex, someone who is too flashy or showy

The original meaning of the word “pimp” was that of a man who was in charge of prostitutes. So, a man who sold the services of prostitutes. This is an old slang word, coming into common use back in the 1700s.

Pimps traditionally dressed in flashy outfits, supposedly to attract attention to themselves and signify that they had girls for “sale”. That is how the word “pimp” also came to mean a flashy dresser. A pimp may be dressed fashionably, but also a bit tackily.

Lastly, the pimp has come to also mean just “to sell” or “to recommend highly”. So, if you pimp out your native German-speaking tutor to your friend, you are recommending them.

5. Hillbilly

Meaning: Rural dweller

This is a rather derisive slang term used by American English speakers to refer to people living in rural areas.

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It’s believed that it first came into common use back in the 1700s when Sots-Irish Americans began to settle the Appalachia region. It’s thought to be a mashup of the term “hill-folk” which referred to people who lived in hilly or mountainous areas and “billy” which was Scottish slang for man.

This slang word didn’t really use to be derogatory, but it has some unpleasant connotations now. If you call someone a “hillbilly” now, you are not just making a reference to where they live but also implying that you think they are poor and uneducated.

6. Brouhaha

Meaning: A commotion

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A “brouhaha” is a rather silly-sounding English word that is used to describe a confusing or confounding situation.

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The implication when you describe a situation as a “brouhaha” is it is loud and unpleasant. The commotion doesn’t stem from happiness but rather from anger. If you are creating a brouhaha, you are complaining loudly about a situation.

7. Spam

Meaning: To receive something undesirable

The history behind Spam as it’s often used now is a long one. Spam was originallythe term for a type of canned meat introduced back in 1937. Though Spam has its fans, it was actually first developed as a way to find a use (and way to sell) an undesirable cut of pork, the pork shoulder.

Perhaps, in a throwback to the idea that Spam wasn’t quality or desirable “meat” but sold a lot, Spam started becoming slang for something that wasn’t really desirable or wanted but that there was a lot of.

For example, spam e-mail is all those unsolicited emails from businesses that you often find in your inbox. Sometimes these emails make up the bulk of your inbox – taking up space, hence they are referred to as spam.

8. Silly

Meaning: Light-hearted but foolish

This English word is a synonym for “ridiculous” or “foolish” but it’s not as harsh as those two words. If you call someone or something “ridiculous” or “foolish”, you are a bit scornful of them and the implication is it is “stupid”.

Silly, on the other hand, has lighter connotations. Someone who acts silly is acting maybe a little foolish but in a playful way. Calling them silly means that you don’t consider their “foolishness” a problem but rather something a little amusing and even cute and endearing.

9. Facepalm

Meaning: To express embarrassment or dismay

This word basically describes a particular type of body language. When you facepalm, you place a hand on your face, covering your eyes and the upper half of your face. It’s meant to convey embarrassment or dismay and taken to mean something like “I don’t believe what I’m seeing” and “I don’t want to be seeing this”.

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While you can just perform the facepalm to get your point across, you can also say the word “facepalm” to mean you felt like facepalming. Either way, you are saying that you felt embarrassed over what you witnessed.

Facepalm as a word is actually new, though the gesture is old. The word was onlyadded to the Miriam Webster Dictionary in 2017.

10. Baloney

Meaning: Nonsense, I don’t believe you

This is another untranslatable English slang word that was originally just a word for a certain meat product. Baloney or bologna sausage was originallya type of sausage from Bologna in Italy. It began being referred to as baloney when it was sold in pre-sliced pieces in American delis as sandwich meat.

While you can still get baloney sandwiches, baloney also has come to mean nonsense. So, if someone is full of baloney, they are speaking nonsense or foolishness and are not to be trusted. You can also say “baloney” if you want to say “I don’t believe you.”

11. Bamboozle

Meaning: To trick someone

This somewhat nonsensical sounding English word is commonly used as a verb and it means to either trick or confuses someone. It originally had criminal connotations and was used to refer to criminals distracting their victims in order to pull off their crime.

You can now use bamboozle in a funny or joking way to imply that someone got the better of you or tricked you. They don’t have to have taken something of value from you, but the implication is that they made you look slightly foolish.


Studying lists of unusual or unique words in English is a great way toexpand your vocabulary. Sure, you need to learn the meanings of thecommonly used English words as well as how to use them in a sentence, but you need to go beyond just the common words and phrases if you want to be able to hold real conversations.

Finding fun lists of funny English words and phrases or unusual and untranslatable English words like we’ve compiled here can help you speak more like a “local” and not like a textbook. You’re also going to want to learn English idioms and expressions as well as slang words and even swear words (if only so you know your not accidentally insulting someone who doesn’t deserve it).

You should work with an online English-speaking language tutor to help you learn and understand untranslatable words in English. They can help you improve your accent and correct your vocabulary so you know that, when you use these words you will be understood.

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What are untranslatable words in English? ›

When we describe a word as “untranslatable,” it doesn't mean that we can't express its meaning in English at all. “Untranslatable” simply means that there's no direct English equivalent for the foreign term. Take, for example, Schadenfreude.

What words in English are not in other languages? ›

English words that can't be translated
  • Awkward. Awkward is the perfect word to describe that peculiarly British blend of embarrassment, discomfort and uncertainty that arises most often in social situations when someone has said something that they shouldn't. ...
  • Jinx. ...
  • Shallow. ...
  • Insight. ...
  • Nice. ...
  • Put. ...
  • Off. ...
  • Bully.
Nov 16, 2015

What are the things that are untranslatable? ›

Here are some of our favourite untranslatable words from around the world with no direct English equivalent.
  • Eudaimonia. Meaning: The state of complete contentment and happiness. ...
  • Fernweh. Meaning: A longing for faraway places. ...
  • Dèrive. ...
  • Resfeber. ...
  • Komorebi. ...
  • Novaturient. ...
  • Vagary. ...
  • Ré Nao.
Feb 1, 2022

Are there any untranslatable languages? ›

Technically the answer is no, there are no languages that can't be translated. But, indeed, we can't have a 100% accurate translation with any language.

Are there any English words with no translation? ›

English words that don't translate
  • Sulk (verb) This means to be silent, morose, and bad-tempered out of annoyance or disappointment. ...
  • Silly (adjective) Silly is a jovial adjective that basically means foolish. ...
  • Scroll (verb) ...
  • Awkward (adjective) ...
  • Fortnight (noun) ...
  • Spam (noun)
Jun 11, 2021

What is the most uncommon word in the English language? ›

The 15 most unusual words you'll ever find in English
  • Serendipity. This word appears in numerous lists of untranslatable words and is a mystery mostly for non native speakers of English. ...
  • Gobbledygook. ...
  • Scrumptious. ...
  • Agastopia. ...
  • Halfpace. ...
  • Impignorate. ...
  • Jentacular. ...
  • Nudiustertian.
Oct 13, 2015

What are words that are the same in English and other languages? ›

In historical linguistics, cognates or lexical cognates are sets of words in different languages that have been inherited in direct descent from an etymological ancestor in a common parent language.

What is the least similar language to English? ›

The least similar language to English is also the least similar to every other language. Basque language has about a half dozen dialects and is a language isolate. It belongs to no language family. The English language is part of the Germanic language branch of the Indo-European languages.

What words in English are from other languages? ›

10 Common English Words With Foreign Origin
  • Banana (West African) It comes as a shock to realize that the name of a banana fruit is actually an African word. ...
  • Lemon (Arabic) ...
  • Ketchup (Chinese) ...
  • Karaoke (Japanese) ...
  • Ballet (French) ...
  • Wanderlust (German) ...
  • Paparazzi (Italian) ...
  • Penguin (Welsh)
Apr 24, 2020

What are three words in another language that Cannot be easily translated to English? ›

8 Words You Can't Directly Translate Into English
  • Kokusaijin (Japanese) While this Japanese word translates roughly as a foreigner, the literal translation reads more like an international person. ...
  • Pana Poʻo (Hawaiian) ...
  • Sobremesa (Spanish) ...
  • Drachenfutter (German) ...
  • Iktsuarpok (Inuit) ...
  • Wabi (Japanese) ...
  • Waldeinsamkeit (German)
Jan 12, 2021

What is a word that every language has? ›

Except that, apparently, we have. That word is “huh”. According to a recent study it seems to be pretty universal. The scientists (in what sounds like an excellent idea for a research trip), recorded bits of informal language from 5 continents, and of the 31 dialects they compiled, all had this same word in common.

Are there any words that are the same in every language? ›

One Single Word

The researchers have suggested that the reason 'huh' is the only word to have spontaneously adopted the same meaning in almost every language is because there is no other word that is capable of filling its place.

What is the rare language ever? ›

Njerep is the rarest language that has been declared extinct by experts. It is native to Cameroon and does not have more than five speakers today. These speakers are not fluent in the tongue.

Are there languages that don't have a word for I? ›

Rather, there is no word for "I" or "you" in colloquial Vietnamese. People address each other according to their relative ages: "anh" for older brother, "chi" for older sister, "em" for younger sibling and so on.

What language is not related to any other language? ›

The Basque language is a language isolate- it is not related to any other known languages. Nobody quite knows where it comes from, though scholars believe that Basque predates the arrival of Indo-European speakers to the European continent. Fun facts about Basque: Basque is one of the world's oldest living languages.

What is a word that Cannot be translated into English? ›

Here are ten more words that don't translate into English. Shemomedjamo (Georgian) This word describes someone knowing he or she is full, but continuing to eat anyway. Iktsuarpok (Inuit) You know when you're so eager for someone to arrive at your house that you keep heading outside to see if they've made it yet?

What do you call words that don't translate? ›

There are a lot of different aspects that go into a good translation of a text from one language to another.

What are examples of transliteration words? ›

Difference from transcription
Greek wordTransliterationEnglish translation
Ελληνική ΔημοκρατίαEllēnikē DēmokratiaHellenic Republic
των υιώνtōn uiōnof the sons


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