There are many lovely words that can precisely express our feelings (ie. hangry comes to mind). However, there are many other emotions that are difficult to express as we have a fairly limited emotional vocabulary in English.
When you look at other languages, you’ll notice that they have a considerably larger vocabulary of terms to represent their emotions and mental health. So, if I tell you, “I’m feeling nervous,” it might mean anything from common or garden anxiety to anxiety disorder. One is a medical problem, while the other is not.
Have you ever had a feeling you couldn’t quite articulate? Take a look at these wonderful terms for complex emotions from around the world, and see if you can use any of them.
Rough translation: Anticipation
This is the term for the tremendous feeling of exhilaration and anticipation that occurs just before something fun begins. It’s how you feel when you’re getting ready for a party and can’t stop dancing. It’s how you feel when you pack for a trip you’ve always wanted to take. It’s not just the anticipation of something enjoyable; it’s the actual pleasure you derive from that expectation. It’s voorpret!
Rough translation: Co-embrassment
Consider the following. You notice your pal attempting to impress a person named Marie Curie, but little does your friend know that some other person is in relationship with Marie. “Oh, I love her,” your pal says. All of her songs have been played for me.” You and the other person both know your friend made a mistake, but your friend may not realize it immediately. Knowing how humiliated your friend is about to be, you feel terrible for them. Myötähäpeä is the affection you have for a buddy.
3. La douleur exquise
Rough translation: The exquisite pain
This is the agony of wishing for something you can’t get. It usually refers to people: the agony of knowing that someone will never reciprocate your feelings. In a nutshell, it’s the sensation that comes with any unrequited love.
Rough translation: Reunion / déjà vu.
It’s the sensation you get when you see someone after a long time apart. It’s the joy that long-distance couples have when they finally get to see each other. It isn’t even necessary for it to be a romantic reunion. When you see your best buddy who moved across the nation for business, you have a sense of déjà vu.
Rough translation: Last minute panic
At some point in your life, you begin to perceive an illusory door closing on all of your potential opportunities. You begin to panic, hoping that if you hurry, you will still be able to get through the door. Torschlusspanik is the sensation of realizing you’re losing opportunities as you become older.
Rough translation: Going outside frequently to see if somebody is approaching
When you’re waiting for someone and continuously checking to see if they’ve arrived, this is a word for it. It isn’t quite impatience, and it isn’t quite eagerness. Technically, it’s the sensation that makes you want to keep walking outdoors, then back inside, then back outside to see if someone is approaching. It’s probably the same emotion that makes you constantly check your phone for a message from your friend or S.O indicating they’re almost there in modern words.
7. Koi no Yokan
Rough translation: Premonition of love
(Yokan) loosely translates to premonition or hunch, and (koi) is romantic love. It’s when you meet someone and immediately have the feeling that the two of you will fall in love. It’s not the same as falling in love with someone at first sight. You aren’t in love right immediately, but you have a sneaking suspicion that it will happen eventually.
Rough translation: In love
Beyond simply being in love, this word encapsulates the ecstatic sensation of falling in love for the first time. You’ve probably experienced this at the start of a relationship (or maybe within the first few dates).
Rough translation: Fall out of love
On the other hand, forelsket is on the opposite extreme of the spectrum. It’s when you have a nostalgic sensation for someone you used to love but no longer do. Consider the possibility of discovering a photo of your ex on your phone or on Facebook (one you parted with on good terms). When you think of who you were back then, you get a rush of nostalgia. You were duped by them, right? You might have a flutter of attraction, but it’s purely platonic at this point. You wonder what they’re up to when you think of that person. That’s razljubit!
Rough translation: Yearning
This term is nearly tough to put into words in English. It’s both a wanting for something you’ll never have and a heartache or sadness you’ll feel because you don’t have something to long for. We won’t pretend to express all of the complexities of toska, but Russian-American novelist Vladimir Nabokov perhaps put it best:
“At its most intense and severe, it is a feeling of immense spiritual sorrow, frequently with no apparent explanation.” It’s a slow pain in the soul, a longing with nothing to long for, a sick pining, a vague restlessness, mental convulsions, wanting at less morbid levels. It could be a craving for someone or something special, nostalgia, or love-sickness in some circumstances. At the most basic level, it’s ennui, or boredom.”
Rough translation: Romantic excitement
This is the sensation of butterflies and happiness that comes from being in the presence of love (or the idea of love). It’s thrilling and addictive, and it doesn’t even have to be about you. When you see your crush looking at you or your favorite TV pair having a serious moment, you’ll feel kilig.
Rough translation: Wishing for the other person to initiate contact
The indigenous people of Tierra Del Fuego speak a language known as Yahgan. The Guinness World Record for “Most Succinct Word” is held by Mamihlapinatapai. It’s frequently defined as “a silent, meaningful stare between two people who want the other to start something they both want but don’t want to start.” On some level, we’ve all been there. It’s when you both want to be the first to say “hello” when someone catches your attention. It’s also the moment before a first kiss when neither party is sure whether or not to go for it.
These are terms that we don’t have in English, but they describe things we do, feel, and experience on a daily basis.