MotherTongues: Wear Words, Celebrate Cultures

about words, languages, cultures, travel

Love and Relationships September 22, 2017


It may not be Valentine’s Day, but who doesn’t like words describing love and relationships? Love is magical, it doesn’t matter what language you are describing it in. Some of these words are from a wonderful book by Erin McKean: “That’s Amore! The Language of Love for Lovers of Language”. Check it out to find more such words describing love in all its magical ways.

Kilig – Tagalog (Indonesia). The butterflies-in-your-stomach feeling you get when you are in love.

œillade – French. The way that lovers glance at each other.

Mamihlapinatapai – Yagán (Tierra del Fuego area of Argentinia). The moment when two pairs of eyes meet in recognition.

Puszipajtás – Hungarian. Someone you know well enough to kiss in the street. (Here in the USA, we definitely don’t kiss anyone in the street!)

Cwtch – Welsh. A warm cuddle showing love and acceptance.

Koi no yokan – Japanese. Knowing that the person you just met, is destined to be a future partner.

Acaronar – Catalán (Andorra, Spain, Italy, France). Drawing someone closer tenderly.

Akoma Ntoaso – Twi (Ghana). This is a symbol of unity and restored relationships, symbolizing joined hearts.

Hartendief – Dutch (Netherlands). Said with love to someone who stole your heart. Literally, this means “thief of my heart”.

Yuanfen – Chinese. A relationship fated by destiny. The binding force that sustains the relationship.

Anam ċara – Gaelic. The soul mate that offers you honesty and belonging.

Alamnaka – Ulwa (Nicaragua). To meet a kindred soul. To find a relationship unlike any other you’ve had.

Forelskelt – Norwegian, Danish. The euphoria you feel when first feeling in love.

May you experience these words about love!



My Favorite Untranslatable Sayings October 24, 2012

Just as I’m fascinated with untranslatable words, I love coming across sayings, proverbs or idioms that makes sense in one language, but baffles the mind when translated into another. I think I see a second MotherTongues App coming… Here are a few of my favorites.

l’espirit de l’escalier (French). Literally: “the spirit of the staircase”. When one ponders what one should have said in a previous conversation (as you are going up the stairs, I presume).

Dil baagh baagh ho-gaya (Urdu and Punjabi). Literally: “My heart became a garden”. Used to express overwhelming joy.

Siku ya kufa nyani miti yote huteleza (Swahili). Literally: “The day a monkey is destined to die, all trees get slippery.” There is no escaping one’s fate.

Gadrii Nombor Shulen Jongu (Tibetan). Literally: “To give a green answer to a blue question”. Giving an answer that is unrelated to the question.

Egyszer volt budán kutyavásár (Hungarian). Literally: “There was a dog-market in Buda only once”. A favorable opportunity that only happens once. It is something to be grasped with two hands, otherwise you will find yourself regretting it later on.

And a last one:

Ukuph’ ukuziphakela (Zulu: South Africa). Literally: “Giving is to serve a portion for oneself.” Kindness is reciprocated. When one gives to another it is like serving a portion for oneself because when in need, it is most likely that the person one has helped, will return the kindness.

Please tell me your favorite sayings, and remember to add the translation too!


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