When it comes to positive emotions, we can learn from other cultures. After all, “language shapes thought and experience,” writes psychologist Tim Lomas, PhD, a lecturer in positive psychology at the University of East London in England. So he’s set out on a worldwide quest for “untranslatable” words in different languages that describe positive experiences and emotions. Examples…
Gökotta: Swedish for waking up early to listen to bird song.
Iktsuarpok: Inuit for the anticipation felt when waiting for someone and checking to see if he or she has arrived.
Gigil: Philippine Tagalog for the irresistible urge to pinch or squeeze someone because you love him or her so much.
Mudita: Sanskrit for reveling in someone else’s joy.
Hirgun: Hebrew for saying nice things to someone simply to make him feel good.
Baraka: Arabic for the gift of spiritual energy that can be passed from one person to another.
Wú Wéi: Chinese for “do nothing” but meaning that one’s actions are entirely natural and effortless.
Schnapsidee: German for coming up with an “ingenious plan” when drunk.
Mbukimvuki: Bantu for “to shuck off one’s clothes in order to dance.”
Vacilando: Spanish for the idea of wandering, where the act of travelling is more important than the destination.
Gumusservi: Turkish for the glimmer that moonlight makes on water.
Dr. Lomas’s quest for a truly international database of words that describe good feelings has just begun. It’s a work in progress. Got a new word he should know about? Post it on his website. And do us a favor—leave it below in the comments section, too. That would make us happy, in an untranslatable kind of way.