5 Useful Words not Existing in English


English is full of useful words, some may even say too many, since often in English there are many words for the same thing.

  English is estimated to have over 1 million words although the exact figure is difficult to pin down, it is certainly more than any of the other 6000 languages on the planet. One would think English had a word for everything, however there are some useful, beautiful and contemporary words that do not exist in English and have no equivalent.  These words can describe very peculiar traits that touch all cultures and all people, yet only appear in 1 or a few languages. Curious huh? It seems some cultures are more inclined to deduce and describe certain aspects of the human experience than others, despite it being something we can all relate too.

Esprit d’Escalier

Language: French

English Equivalent: The Spirit of the Escalator

  • In this well balanced phrase d’Escalier is a metaphor for having left a situation, the spirit is thinking of something to say to someone. And so it describes that all too familiar and sometimes haunting sensation, of thinking of a clever response after the moment has passed. Maybe someone was rude to you and later the scenario ran through your head, but you pictured the ultimate response where their fallibility was made irrefutably clear to them and they submitted to your superior morality. But alas, what is it worth now…. ?


Hygge (or) Hyggelig

Language: Danish

English Equivalent: Absence of Nuisance or Extreme Content

  • This Danish word often comes up around the festive season and Christmas. It is a complete absence of any physical discomfort, mental stress or emotional disturbances. A serene comfort and content with a moment in life, something all of us long for but can often seem like a rare moment. Imagine after a hearty warming meal followed by a relaxing soak in a luxurious bath tub, one spends the evening quietly examining a magnificent scene of nature, from the comfort of an well crafted hammock, next to an array of candles while the sun sets over the hills. Aaaaaah…


Danish Sunset
Hygge Danish Sunset


Language: Swedish

English Equivalent: Everything in moderation/balance

  • In English there is the phrase; ‘everything in moderation’ and in Swedish there is the much more concise and elegant; ‘Lagom’. Meaning not too much and not too little, Lagom often refers to etiquette and means taking your fair share. When there is a plate of biscuits out on the table, take some, but not so many that other people have less. Take the perfect amount, the fair share, Lagom.



Language: Spanish

English Equivalent: After meal conversation

  • A word that is very unfamiliar in the English language. Likely because the Spanish are far more inclined to make a ritual out of lunch than the English. Sobremesa is when everybody has finished eating but the flow of conversation continues. This could include coffee, card games, watching t.v or simply chatting before returning to work in the afternoon.



Language: German

English Equivalent: Annoying face worthy of punching

  • Another word with very little kinship to the English language. This rather specific term ‘Backpfeifengesicht’, refers to someone whose face is badly in need of a fist! In other words, someone you see and find so inexplicably annoying that you are moved to fantasize about hurting them…


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