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Ten words

Ten Relationship Words That Aren’t Translatable Into English

  • Mamihlapinatapei (Yagan, an indigenous language of Tierra del Fuego): The wordless yet meaningful look shared by two people who desire to initiate something, but are both reluctant to start.
  • Yuanfen (Chinese): A relationship by fate or destiny. This is a complex concept. It draws on principles of predetermination in Chinese culture, which dictate relationships, encounters and affinities, mostly among lovers and friends.
  • Cafuné (Brazilian Portuguese): The act of tenderly running your fingers through someone’s hair.
  • Retrouvailles (French): The happiness of meeting again after a long time.
  • Ilunga (Bantu): A person who is willing to forgive abuse the first time; tolerate it the second time, but never a third time.
  • La Douleur Exquise (French): The heart-wrenching pain of wanting someone you can’t have.
  • Koi No Yokan (Japanese): The sense upon first meeting a person that the two of you are going to fall into love.
  • Ya’aburnee (Arabic): “You bury me.” It’s a declaration of one’s hope that they’ll die before another person, because of how difficult it would be to live without them.
  • Forelsket: (Norwegian): The euphoria you experience when you’re first falling in love.
  • Saudade (Portuguese): The feeling of longing for someone that you love and is lost. Another linguist describes it as a “vague and constant desire for something that does not and probably cannot exist.”

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