10 Beautiful Words About Love That Don’t Exist in English

Here’s more evidence that “English only” is an ignorant approach to understanding what’s important in life.



1. Mamihlapinatapei (Yagan, an indigenous language of Tierra del Fuego): The wordless yet meaningful look shared by two people who desire to initiate something, but are both reluctant to start.


2. Yuanfen (Chinese): A relationship by fate or destiny. This is a complex concept. It draws on principles of predetermination in Chinese culture, which dictate relationships, encounters and affinities, mostly among lovers and friends.


3. Cafuné (Brazilian Portuguese): The act of tenderly running your fingers through someone’s hair.


4. Retrouvailles (French):  The happiness of meeting again after a long time.


5. Ilunga (Bantu): A person who is willing to forgive abuse the first time; tolerate it the second time, but never a third time.

la douleur exquise

6. La Douleur Exquise (French): The heart-wrenching pain of wanting someone you can’t have.

koi no yokan

7. Koi No Yokan (Japanese): The sense upon first meeting a person that the two of you are going to fall…

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4 responses to “10 Beautiful Words About Love That Don’t Exist in English

  1. galenpearl

    I LOVED this. When I lived in Thailand, I was struck by how many words they have in Thai for feelings. We try to identify many feelings by describing a situation that evokes that feeling. Like “You know how you feel when such and such happens?” Thai would have a word for that feeling. I thought, no wonder English speakers need so much therapy!

    Just as telling is that as a contracts negotiator in international transactions, I found that many English contract or business or technological terms have been adopted in other languages because they don’t have similar terms! This just proves your point further about what English speakers think is important!

    • These kinds of articles are always inspiring to me. One way language reflects culture is to emphasize what each tribe cares most about. (I’ve been too busy with other people’s problems to write, but I’ll be back soon. Spice is in phase 8 of 10!)

  2. This is amazing. I’ve always been intrigued by the interaction between words, language and reality. I heard the native people of Alaska have 32 words for snow. Assuming that’s true, do they ‘see’ snow differently, because they have language. But, then the language had to have been created out of an awareness. How do the words you list shape the reality of the culture and people who exist in it?

    • Languages seem to reflect the values of the culture they emerge from. My guess about the many Inuit words for snow is because for them it’s the weather, the environment, and a main construction material as well as all the things water represents as the source of life. Snow has a metaphorical, spiritual dimension for those peoples. For me it’s mostly an obstacle to driving 🙂 I’m glad you enjoyed thinking about the topic, Cathy. Thanks for dropping in!

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