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Lost for words – European vocabulary that has no English equivalent

Did you know that today is the European Day of Languages? Even though our tiny continent is the second smallest in the world by surface area, we as Europeans collectively speak more than 200 different languages and dialects!

Each of these languages is diverse and unique, so it’s only inevitable that there are some words that you will come across on your travels that have no direct English equivalent.

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Here are some of our favourites. See how many you can fit into conversation today!

Bricoleur (French)
Someone who starts something with no plan whatsoever.

Cavoli Riscaldati (Italian)
What happens when you try to make a doomed relationship work. Derived from the beautiful phrase “reheated cabbage”.

Culaccino (Italian)
The mark left on a table by a cold glass. For example: “After the party, my table was covered in culaccino!”

glass

Dépaysement (French)
The feeling of not being in your own country.

Desenrascanço (Portuguese)
To “disentangle” from an awkward situation.

Forelsket (Norweigian)
The wonderful feeling you get when falling in love.

Fremdschämen (German)
Being embarrassed on behalf of someone who should be, but isn’t.

Hygge (Danish)
That fuzzy feeling you get when you snuggle up to close friends around a fire with some good food and/or drink.

Kaelling (Danish)
A woman who berates her children in public.

Kummerspeck (German)
Extra weight put on from emotional overeating. For example: “Stop crying and put that Ben and Jerry’s down, think of all the kummerspeck you’ll gain!”

ice cream

Lagom (Swedish)
Not too much, not too little, the perfect amount.

L’esprit de l’escalier (French)
That smart comment that you think of after the moment has passed.

Manque (French)
Failing to reach your potential.

Meraki (Greek)
Doing something with passion, pouring your heart and soul into what you are doing.

Packasel (German)
Someone who is made to carry someone else’s bags on a trip. For example: “My wife has turned me into a packasel!”

Pålegg (Norwegian)
Food used for filling sandwiches, whatever it may be. For example: “I’m off to the shops to grab some pålegg for my bread”.

Sandwich

Pesmenteiro (Portuguese)
Someone who turns up to a funeral just for the food.

Qualunquismo (Italian)
Someone who doesn’t care about politics or the issues affecting society

Saudade (Portuguese)
Longing for someone, or something, that is lost.

Schadenfreude (German)
Taking pleasure from someone else’s pain.

Seigneur-terraces (French)
Those people who spend ages in coffee shops but don’t spend any money.

Slampadato (Italian)
Someone who is addicted to the tanning salon. “She is such a slampadato – she’s turning bright orange!”

Sobremesa (Spanish)
The time you spend after a meal chatting to the people you shared the meal with.

Torschlusspanik (German)
The fear of losing opportunities as you age.

Uitwaaien (Dutch)
Taking a small break in the countryside to clear your head.

Country cottage

Verschlimmbesserung (German)
A supposed improvement that actually makes things worse.

Vybafnout (Czech)
To jump out and say ‘boo’.

Waldeinsamkeit (German)
The feeling of being alone in the woods.

Zalatwic (Polish)
Using friends, bribes or charm to get something done.

Those are some of our favourite European words without an English equivalent. Can you think of any others? Share them with us in the comments section below!

Images by Pedro Ribeiro Simões, Jenny Downing, Jennifer, St0rmz and Dominic Alves under creative commons.

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