20 votes

What are some non-English words that you believe would be good candidates for inclusion in English dictionaries?

I believe the post title is sufficient. On the other hand, these could be words that don't exist yet or are in use but rarely heard about.

50 comments

  1. [3]
    mrbig
    (edited )
    Link
    1. presepada (noun), Portuguese That's a regional word, mostly used in the North-East of Brazil. Google suggested: jest frolic drollery But none of those truly captures the meaning. Even Brazilian...

    1. presepada (noun), Portuguese

    That's a regional word, mostly used in the North-East of Brazil. Google suggested:

    • jest
    • frolic
    • drollery

    But none of those truly captures the meaning. Even Brazilian dictionaries hardly convey the usage. In most cases, we use presepada to describe a jestful action or utterance that is made with a flimsy pretense of seriousness. Example:

    In Portuguese

    "Rapaz, esse é o melhor acarajé que eu já comi em toda minha vida! Sério, agora eu posso morrer em paz!" — disse George.

    "Você largue de presepada!" — respondeu Mary.

    Translated to English

    "Dude!! This is the best acarajé I've eaten in my entire life! Seriously, now I can die in peace!" — Said George.

    "Drop the presepada!" — Answered Mary.

    A presepada is not a lie per se: it's something that could very well be true, that becomes false because of exaggeration or inflection. Accusing someone of being a presepeiro is not an offense, but an affectionate way to point out the jocular nature of the interlocutor. The phrases you must be joking! and you can't be serious! are reasonable approximations, but presepada has a delicious cadence and nuance that is hard to translate[1] . It's syncopated like samba and the slopes of Salvador.

    2. lagom, Swedish

    They say it embodies the spirit of tranquility, equilibrium and moderation associated with the country, and that it's unique and untranslatable. I don't know if the last part is true, but it's beautiful nevertheless.

    From Wikipedia:

    The word can be variously translated as "in moderation", "in balance" and "perfect-simple". Whereas words like sufficient and average suggest some degree of abstinence, scarcity, or failure, lagom carries the connotation of appropriateness, although not necessarily perfection. The archetypical Swedish proverb "Lagom är bäst", literally "The right amount is best", is also translated as "Enough is as good as a feast", or as "There is virtue in moderation".

    [1] Many words associated with presepada have negative connotations in the English language. I suppose that cultural differences play a part here. Brazilian culture praises flexibility, curves, alternative paths. You can see that in our soccer tradition, which takes seemingly absurd paths towards the goal, while traditions like English and German focus on statistics, straight lines, precision and long passes between the two fields. Another interesting difference is between the meat cuts of Brazil and the US: Brazilian cuts respect the anatomy of the bull and are curvilinear, while American cuts are straighter, mixing different parts of the bull in a single piece.

    10 votes
    1. [2]
      timo
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      Can you pinpoint whether and how it is different from a hyperbole? It looks just like a map of the US!

      presepada

      Can you pinpoint whether and how it is different from a hyperbole?

      while American cuts are more straight, mixing different parts of the bull in a single piece.

      It looks just like a map of the US!

      2 votes
      1. mrbig
        Link Parent
        You might say that presepada is a special case of hyperbole. The difference being the jocular nature, the non-binary relation with the truth and a penchant for melodrama. Yes... the comparison...

        Can you pinpoint whether and how it is different from a hyperbole?

        You might say that presepada is a special case of hyperbole. The difference being the jocular nature, the non-binary relation with the truth and a penchant for melodrama.

        It looks just like a map of the US!

        Yes... the comparison would also be valid if I used both maps!

        1 vote
  2. [4]
    anahata
    Link
    Gezelligheid. No question. A Dutch friend introduced me to it some years ago and it is the only Dutch word I know, but I am utterly thrilled to know it.

    Gezelligheid. No question. A Dutch friend introduced me to it some years ago and it is the only Dutch word I know, but I am utterly thrilled to know it.

    13 votes
    1. timo
      Link Parent
      It is difficult to explain but this is a fitting description. I think you need to experience it for a while to fully grasp its meaning. It is similar to the Danish Hygge and German Gemütlichkeit.

      [...] a general and abstract sensation of individual well-being that one typically shares with others. All descriptions involve a positive atmosphere, flow or vibe that colours the individual personal experience in a favorable way and in one way or another corresponds to social contexts.

      It is difficult to explain but this is a fitting description. I think you need to experience it for a while to fully grasp its meaning.

      It is similar to the Danish Hygge and German Gemütlichkeit.

      8 votes
    2. asep
      Link Parent
      Oh man, nothing beats the pure satisfaction of when you talk to a dutch person and you call something gezellig and they agree.

      Oh man, nothing beats the pure satisfaction of when you talk to a dutch person and you call something gezellig and they agree.

      5 votes
    3. arp242
      Link Parent
      Craic from Irish English is kind-of similar-ish, although it's not exactly the same.

      Craic from Irish English is kind-of similar-ish, although it's not exactly the same.

      2 votes
  3. pseudolobster
    Link
    Fingerspitzengefühl. It's German, and literally translates to "Finger tips feeling". Basically it means an intuition learned from experience, or an innate sensitivity and ability to do something well.

    Fingerspitzengefühl. It's German, and literally translates to "Finger tips feeling". Basically it means an intuition learned from experience, or an innate sensitivity and ability to do something well.

    11 votes
  4. [8]
    chkiss
    Link
    "Yalla" يله\يلا\يالله is highly useful in Arabic. It means "let's go," "come on," "let's do it." Israelis have picked it up and according to a few media reports some Germans have done the same,...

    "Yalla" يله\يلا\يالله is highly useful in Arabic. It means "let's go," "come on," "let's do it."

    Israelis have picked it up and according to a few media reports some Germans have done the same, although I've yet to hear that from a human.

    10 votes
    1. [2]
      asep
      Link Parent
      I would prefer if we took "inshallah" from Arabic it strikes the perfect balance of friendliness and rejection.

      I would prefer if we took "inshallah" from Arabic it strikes the perfect balance of friendliness and rejection.

      6 votes
      1. chkiss
        Link Parent
        I use that all the time in English as well! People seem to pick up on its subtleties pretty quickly.

        I use that all the time in English as well! People seem to pick up on its subtleties pretty quickly.

    2. [2]
      timo
      Link Parent
      Would you say it is similar to the Spanish word "vamos"?

      Would you say it is similar to the Spanish word "vamos"?

      4 votes
      1. chkiss
        Link Parent
        I don't think so, because you can use it even when you're not going anywhere. I don't speak Spanish though! "Should we start the movie?" "Yalla."

        I don't think so, because you can use it even when you're not going anywhere. I don't speak Spanish though!

        "Should we start the movie?" "Yalla."

        1 vote
    3. [3]
      ainar-g
      Link Parent
      In Russia we use “айда!” (lat. “ajda!”, /eye-DAH/), which Russians picked up from Turkic languages, primarily Tatar.

      In Russia we use “айда!” (lat. “ajda!”, /eye-DAH/), which Russians picked up from Turkic languages, primarily Tatar.

      4 votes
      1. [2]
        ThatFanficGuy
        Link Parent
        I'm getting strong Soviet vibes from that word. Not a damn soul used it around me aside for my grandmother.

        I'm getting strong Soviet vibes from that word.

        Not a damn soul used it around me aside for my grandmother.

        2 votes
        1. ainar-g
          Link Parent
          My family used it a lot. But then again, my family is Tatar :-)

          My family used it a lot. But then again, my family is Tatar :-)

          2 votes
  5. [12]
    ehmry
    Link
    Beamer - common German term for projector (Dutch as well?).

    Beamer - common German term for projector (Dutch as well?).

    8 votes
    1. [6]
      timo
      Link Parent
      Can confirm it is commonly used in Dutch as well. Funny since it is an English word.

      Can confirm it is commonly used in Dutch as well. Funny since it is an English word.

      2 votes
      1. [5]
        arp242
        Link Parent
        This is one of those words that can really trip you up because it's an English loanword, but no native English speaker would use "beamer" to describe a projector, and they'll have no idea what...

        This is one of those words that can really trip you up because it's an English loanword, but no native English speaker would use "beamer" to describe a projector, and they'll have no idea what you're on about if you use it as such.

        Another interesting one is to use "airco", which is what air conditioning is called in NL, which is usually called "aircon" in many other countries. Turns out a lot of people will be very confused if you use "airco" 🤷‍♂️

        2 votes
        1. anahata
          Link Parent
          Someone with a background in LaTeX would have an inkling, as this is exactly what I thought of when I read the word and definition.

          This is one of those words that can really trip you up because it's an English loanword, but no native English speaker would use "beamer" to describe a projector, and they'll have no idea what you're on about if you use it as such.

          Someone with a background in LaTeX would have an inkling, as this is exactly what I thought of when I read the word and definition.

          1 vote
        2. Adys
          Link Parent
          Reminds me of babyfoot, which is French for table football (foosball for y'all étatsuniens). Also, étatsunien is French slang for USA citizen. It literally means united-states-american.

          Reminds me of babyfoot, which is French for table football (foosball for y'all étatsuniens).

          Also, étatsunien is French slang for USA citizen. It literally means united-states-american.

          1 vote
        3. [2]
          antiolrach
          Link Parent
          A similar one, also in German funnily enough, is Handy for mobile phone

          A similar one, also in German funnily enough, is Handy for mobile phone

          1. arp242
            Link Parent
            I love that word, especially how Germans pronounce it!

            I love that word, especially how Germans pronounce it!

            2 votes
    2. [4]
      patience_limited
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      As spoken, there's a risk of confusion with the English (U.S. only?) slang word, "Beemer", referring to BMW and Mercedes-Benz vehicles. It's usually used pejoratively with regard to conspicuous...

      As spoken, there's a risk of confusion with the English (U.S. only?) slang word, "Beemer", referring to BMW and Mercedes-Benz vehicles.

      It's usually used pejoratively with regard to conspicuous luxury consumers, as in, "he's the kind of greasy real estate asshole who wears Gucci loafers and drives a Beemer."

      1. [2]
        papasquat
        Link Parent
        I've never heard it used to described Mercedes, only BMWs. BMW -> Bee em doubleyou -> Beem -> Bimmer/Beemer/Beamer

        I've never heard it used to described Mercedes, only BMWs.
        BMW -> Bee em doubleyou -> Beem -> Bimmer/Beemer/Beamer

        1 vote
        1. patience_limited
          Link Parent
          Detroit area - when I was growing up, all German import vehicles were "Beemers" when referring to pretentious people who wouldn't drive honest American iron. [Except for Porsches, which were legit...

          Detroit area - when I was growing up, all German import vehicles were "Beemers" when referring to pretentious people who wouldn't drive honest American iron. [Except for Porsches, which were legit cool, and Beetles, which were out-of-production hippie cars.] 🙄

      2. timo
        Link Parent
        I'd love to see an example where a projector and a Mercedes or BMW can be confused!

        I'd love to see an example where a projector and a Mercedes or BMW can be confused!

  6. [2]
    Adys
    Link
    A couple of common sayings that don't exist in English: Bon appétit, which is actually used in english but doesn't exist in an english form. Means "[have a] good appetite", as in, "have a good...

    A couple of common sayings that don't exist in English:

    Bon appétit, which is actually used in english but doesn't exist in an english form. Means "[have a] good appetite", as in, "have a good meal". I'd vote for the inclusion of "have a good meal!" in everyday talk.

    I know some people do say "enjoy your meal", but it's not quite the same. Think of the difference between saying "enjoy your flight" and wishing "safe travels".

    In greek, καλη εβδομαδα (kali evdomada) means "good week"; you wish it every monday. Similarly, καλό μήνα means "good month", you wish it on the first of the month.

    6 votes
    1. Data
      Link Parent
      In Spanish we say Buen Provecho, which means the same thing. Can't think of a saying in the English language.

      In Spanish we say Buen Provecho, which means the same thing. Can't think of a saying in the English language.

      1 vote
  7. [11]
    ThatFanficGuy
    Link
    "suka" and "blyat". Not because they're good words, but because they're prevalent enough in the online gaming slang to know what the hell they mean.

    "suka" and "blyat". Not because they're good words, but because they're prevalent enough in the online gaming slang to know what the hell they mean.

    5 votes
    1. [8]
      anahata
      Link Parent
      ... so... how about you tell us what the hell they mean? :D

      ... so... how about you tell us what the hell they mean? :D

      5 votes
      1. [3]
        ThatFanficGuy
        Link Parent
        @Odysseus is mostly on-the-money with this. The only correction I would issue is that блядь would be "slut" (a promiscuous woman), rather than "whore" (a woman offering sexual services for...

        @Odysseus is mostly on-the-money with this. The only correction I would issue is that блядь would be "slut" (a promiscuous woman), rather than "whore" (a woman offering sexual services for payment), in English. (Блять is a derived spelling for when the word is used as a pure curse word, rather than implying any sort of sexual misconduct.) Сука, in its main usage, could be used to refer to a female dog, just like the English "bitch".

        The use cases for either word, as well as for both of them, are wide and varied. The Russian language employs what's referred to as "multi-storey cursing" (многоэтажный мат), where the speaker strings together a series of curse words, usually in an improvised, syntactically-correct structure, to express their discontent, either at a particular grammatical object or in general, with no specific target.

        Сука, блять! is a good example of a short multi-storey curse. It's simple, easy to come up with at a stressful moment, and easy to pronounce, while still being expressive – all of which makes it common to use among native Russian speakers.

        7 votes
        1. [2]
          papasquat
          Link Parent
          Is that why russian english speakers sometimes string together unrelated curse words when expressing anger, which ends up sounding ridiculous to native english speakers? (You bitch fuck whore...

          Is that why russian english speakers sometimes string together unrelated curse words when expressing anger, which ends up sounding ridiculous to native english speakers? (You bitch fuck whore shithead, etc)

          1. ThatFanficGuy
            Link Parent
            I mean, now that you mention it, I'm wondering why other languages don't do that. Cursing isn't supposed to make sense: it's all about the pure expression.

            I mean, now that you mention it, I'm wondering why other languages don't do that. Cursing isn't supposed to make sense: it's all about the pure expression.

      2. [4]
        Odysseus
        Link Parent
        bitch and whore respectively, but it's used together the same way we use "motherfucker" in english. Blyat is used on it's own as an interjection pretty much exactly the same way we use "fuck"

        bitch and whore respectively, but it's used together the same way we use "motherfucker" in english. Blyat is used on it's own as an interjection pretty much exactly the same way we use "fuck"

        5 votes
        1. [3]
          anahata
          Link Parent
          You say "it's used together", do you mean both words are used together? And when you say blyat is like "fuck", are you referring to the fully general sense of the word? "fuck" is one of the most...

          You say "it's used together", do you mean both words are used together? And when you say blyat is like "fuck", are you referring to the fully general sense of the word? "fuck" is one of the most versatile words in the language, so saying something is used like it is noteworthy.

          1 vote
          1. [2]
            Odysseus
            (edited )
            Link Parent
            Blyat is used as an interjection like we use fuck, e.g. when you stub your toe, when you forget your phone, etc. Сука, блять is used together as a single phrase. Someone with better Russian than...

            Blyat is used as an interjection like we use fuck, e.g. when you stub your toe, when you forget your phone, etc.

            Сука, блять is used together as a single phrase.

            Someone with better Russian than me can correct me or add details. My girlfriend is Russian, which by no means makes me any sort of authority on Russian profanity

            Edit: just remembered, you can also use suka pretty much exactly like how we use bitch in English

            7 votes
            1. anahata
              Link Parent
              Aha! That makes more sense. I was thinking of things like "absofuckinglutely" or "you don't know what the fuck you're doing" or "go fuck yourself" rather than "oh fuck!". Thank you for clarifying...

              Blyat is used as an interjection like we use fuck, e.g. when you stub your toe, when you forget your phone, etc.

              Aha! That makes more sense. I was thinking of things like "absofuckinglutely" or "you don't know what the fuck you're doing" or "go fuck yourself" rather than "oh fuck!". Thank you for clarifying here!

              1 vote
    2. [2]
      heady
      Link Parent
      I think "gosu" and "chobo" are prevalent enough to warrant inclusion.

      I think "gosu" and "chobo" are prevalent enough to warrant inclusion.

      1 vote
      1. ThatFanficGuy
        Link Parent
        ...oh, I guess now I know how others feel when they have no idea what those words are supposed to mean.

        ...oh, I guess now I know how others feel when they have no idea what those words are supposed to mean.

        2 votes
  8. Sahasrahla
    Link
    A few languages have a word or phrase that can express encouragement in a way that doesn't quite exist in English. Jia you, ganbatte, aja aja, etc. The most similar phrase in English is "good...

    A few languages have a word or phrase that can express encouragement in a way that doesn't quite exist in English. Jia you, ganbatte, aja aja, etc. The most similar phrase in English is "good luck!" but that has more a connotation of "I hope it goes well!" or "I hope you can do well!". Something like "jia you" is more versatile and can express more of a "you can do it!" or "you can work hard!" idea that encourages another's efforts towards a positive outcome. Saying "good luck!", "you can do it!", or "let's go!" doesn't quite cut it.

    Interestingly, since these expressions are so useful and because it's surprisingly hard to express the same thing succinctly in English in a way that works in all contexts, these words/phrases or their literal translations are becoming more common in English. Probably the best well known is "add oil", the literal translation of "jia you", which has apparently made it into the OED.

    4 votes
  9. Sill
    Link
    The positive lexicography project is a collection of words for positive emotions that are hard to translate across languages. I'd be interested in a thread like this for idioms. My idiom white...

    The positive lexicography project is a collection of words for positive emotions that are hard to translate across languages.

    I'd be interested in a thread like this for idioms. My idiom white whale comes from a friend in college learning Russian through a book of English-Russian swears, and there was a way of calling someone lazy that was something like:

    You beat a pear tree with your dick expecting fruit to fall off.

    4 votes
  10. [5]
    patience_limited
    (edited )
    Link
    I want chapuza from Spanish as a replacement for the U.S. English usage, "ghetto". Chapuza means sloppily or intentionally botched, jury-rigged, fudged, shabbily and poorly constructed, or a...

    I want chapuza from Spanish as a replacement for the U.S. English usage, "ghetto".

    Chapuza means sloppily or intentionally botched, jury-rigged, fudged, shabbily and poorly constructed, or a cheat.

    It has a a weight of moral indignation at haphazard work that you would have done better if you weren't lazy, corrupt and/or greedy. The root is the same as English "cheap".

    "Ghetto" is both racially fraught and contemptuous of things badly or unattractively done because the people doing them are poor or ignorant. It disregards hard work, ingenuity, and fitness for purpose just because the results aren't what wealthier people are accustomed to.

    3 votes
    1. Sahasrahla
      Link Parent
      I feel like whenever I heard "ghetto" growing up it had more positive connotations, kind of like it expressed a "it's not stupid if it works" philosophy that praised the ingenuity of doing...

      I feel like whenever I heard "ghetto" growing up it had more positive connotations, kind of like it expressed a "it's not stupid if it works" philosophy that praised the ingenuity of doing something with limited resources, while at the same time being a bit jovial in recognizing the sometimes ridiculous seeming result. Of course, that's not to argue that the word is inoffensive or should be in common usage, or that it has the same connotations everywhere. It's just that as I've heard it used here (usually by people from housing projects) it never seemed contemptuous or negative, and was mostly just a positive way of describing the unique solutions to problems that people would sometimes construct.

      2 votes
    2. [3]
      Sand
      Link Parent
      That's not what ghetto means though, right?

      sloppily or intentionally botched, jury-rigged, fudged, shabbily and poorly constructed, or a cheat.

      That's not what ghetto means though, right?

      1. patience_limited
        Link Parent
        That's the way "ghetto" is used, mostly; I remember an e-mail from a guy who thought it was perfectly fine to use "ghetto-rigged" in business communication.

        That's the way "ghetto" is used, mostly; I remember an e-mail from a guy who thought it was perfectly fine to use "ghetto-rigged" in business communication.

        3 votes
      2. anahata
        Link Parent
        Very much depends upon register and location. As a Philadelphian, I hear it spoken more by black folks regularly. The "cheap, shoddy" meaning derived from the meaning referring to a poor area,...

        Very much depends upon register and location. As a Philadelphian, I hear it spoken more by black folks regularly. The "cheap, shoddy" meaning derived from the meaning referring to a poor area, thus the racial and socioeconomic issues that patience_limited is addressing.

        2 votes