SHANE’S EXCELLENT NEW WORDS: 10 non-English words that defy exact translation.


It helps to understand that in Europe, August is the holiday month between school sessions. Lots of things shut down, and everyone heads somewhere else.

10 of the best words in the world (that don’t translate into English), by Guardian correspondents

As millions head abroad on holiday, our correspondents choose the words that for them speak volumes about the countries they love and live in

One of the many great things about languages worldwide is the sizeable number of words for which there is no real English translation. Often they tell us about concepts and ideas that we are missing out on in the anglophone world.

As the northern hemisphere heads abroad in the coming holiday season, here are a few to be looking out for:

Here are excerpts from three of the ten — originating in Spain, Germany and China, respectively.

  • The sobremesa is a digestive period that allows for the slow settling of food, gossip, ideas and conversations.
  • Dating back to the 16th century, the term Feierabend, or “celebration evening”, used to denote the evening before a public holiday, but has come to refer to the free time between leaving the office and bedtime on any working day.
  • Tiáo is one of at least 140 classifiers and measure words in the Chinese language. It’s a measure word for long-narrow-shape things. For example, bed sheets, fish, ships, bars of soap, cartons of cigarettes, avenues, trousers, dragons, rivers.