The Edmondson Blog

Lost In Translation

According to a poll of 1,000 translators, the most untranslatable word in the world is ilunga, from the Bantu language of Tshiluba; it means a person ready to forgive an abuse the first time, tolerate it the second time, but neither the third time.

The runners-up were:
Shlimazl: Yiddish for a chronically unlucky person.
Radioukacz: Polish for a person who worked as a telegrapher for the resistance movements on the Soviet side of the Iron Curtain.
Gezelling: Dutch for an atmosphere or feeling that is cosy.
Sau dade: Portuguese for a certain type of longing.
Selathirupavar: Tamil for a certain type of truancy.
Pochemuchka: Russian for a particular kind of person who asks a lot of questions.
Klloshar: Albanian for something like loser.
Naa: aJapanese word used only in Kansai area of Japan for emphasis or to agree with someone.
Altahmam: Arabic for a kind of deep sadness.

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