12 untranslatable words by TED Translators

TED Translators work at the intersection of culture and language. They help big ideas transcend language and global borders. Together, TED Translators represent more than 115 unique languages, many of which contain certain words that don’t exist in other languages. We asked a few of the TED Translators attending TED2018 to share a word from their language that cannot be easily translated into English. Enjoy learning these 12 words—and let us know what untranslatable words exist in your own language!

8 thoughts on “12 untranslatable words by TED Translators

  1. “Saudade” and “Cafone” words are in Portuguese, from Portugal. Not from Brasil. “Saudade” is related with the Portuguese Culture and History as well. Brasil adopted the words and language after the discoveries, but the words are Portuguese, from Portugal.

    1. Hi, Carla.

      One of our Brazilian Portuguese translators selected to share this word (which is used in both Portuguese and Brazilian Portuguese). But thank you for your clarifying comments about the shared use of this word!

      All best,


    2. Portuguese is also the language in Brazil. There is no reason to say a word is “from” somewhere, as it is a creation of the language itself. I think Brazilian Portuguese was used because of the person who was narrating the meaning of the word.

  2. Hello, as Korean language there is a word 정 which is the humanity that exist between people but it is really hard to get the exact meaning of it to foreigners.

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