Wonderful Words We’re Missing in English

Yes, we have a word shortage!

America is known for its overabundance of most things, but we could certainly use a few more words. Here are 10 words from other cultures that we American-English speakers might think about adopting. Our first word is Danish, and charmed many an American when it landed.

Hygge

The Danish word hygge recently become something of a hot meme around the world, with books devoted to finding hygge in one’s life. It describes, more or less, a special or cozy feeling derived from simple, soothing things, like candlelight, or staying in bed on a rainy day. Though the pronunciation takes a little work (try “hue-guh”), many of us have adopted the word. An evening with special friends, the act of arranging fresh flowers, or cozying up with a down blanket in front of a fire are all surefire ways to find a little of the comfort and kinship that hygge brings.

Boketto

Boketto is a Japanese word, and it means, simply, the act of gazing vacantly into the distance, without really focusing one’s thoughts on anything in particular. Commuters worldwide often adopt this expression after squeezing onto crowded trains. Boketto is a great way to avoid awkward eye-contact! 

Geborgenheit

This word has been called “the most beautiful word in the German language,” and it means a deep sense of security, the perfect mix of safety, coziness, warmth, and comfort. Sort of like “hygge,” but it has more of an emotional component, with words like “love” and “trust” also seeping into the list of descriptors. That’s a pretty full load. Warning: Our next word offers both pleasure and pain.

Saudade

Saudade is a Portuguese word that refers to a nostalgic longing or homesickness, as well as an almost paralyzing longing to be with someone in particular. Saudade is also, oddly, the sense of nostalgia for something that hasn’t even happened, or for something that you know will never happen again. Portuguese writer Manuel de Melo defined saudade as, "a pleasure you suffer, an ailment you enjoy."

Iktsuarpok

This Inuit word means “anticipation,” but it’s a very specific kind: you know that feeling you have when you’re waiting for someone to arrive? You’re so filled with anticipation and impatience that you constantly go outside to see if they are coming, or perhaps you go to the window repeatedly? That's iktsuarpok.

Weltschmerz

Writers from Steinbeck to Wilde to Henry Miller have noted the condition of weltschmerz, a German word for a deep, world-weary depression and melancholy. This particular melancholy stems from believing that the world isn't as it should be, or that true happiness may not be possible. Weltschmerz may not be a fun word, but it's undeniably profound. Our next word will bring you back up!

Cafuné

We need at least one purely romantic word here, and what better than Cafuné? This Brazilian-Portuguese word describes the act of running one’s fingers through a lover’s hair. Of course, much has been written about the intimacy of touching (braiding, brushing, stroking) a loved one’s hair, but just knowing there's word for it speaks volumes.

Querencia

The Spanish word querencia is kind of a metaphysical concept. It refers to a place from which a person draws strength and empowerment, or finds inner peace and strength. The word originated in bullfighting - it was the place in the ring where a bull returned instinctually, for refuge or gathering energy. Your querencia might involve a tree you climbed as a kid, a room with perfect sunlight, or perhaps the deepest part of your soul.

Komorebi

The Japanese have a number of wonderful words relating to nature. Komorebi refers to the beams of light falling through the forest on a sunny day, and also to the interplay between leaf shadows and the sun. (Cool English language note: the computer graphics industry uses the phrase “God rays” for those forest sunbeams.) Our last word is also inspired by nature, and just as sweet.

Gokotta

Ok, the loose English translation of gokotta (pronounced zho-‘kOt-tah) is “dawn picnic,” which itself is pretty cool. But it means more: the act of rising early to greet the dawn, listen to birds, and to see the sun. We told you it was sweet. Now say it after us: zho-‘kOt-tah!