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“If we spoke a different language, we would perceive a somewhat different world.”
‒ Ludwig Wittgenstein
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Do you agree with this quote? I know I do. Many languages have beautiful and unique words which cannot be translated. These words often represent concepts which are so unique to that culture, there is simply no equivalent in any other language.
We’ve collected 12 of our favourite Japanese words with no English equivalent.
The interesting thing about these words is that they reveal a lot about the Japanese character. Many of these words reflect Buddhist concepts which are unknown to many Westerners, but are central ideas in Japanese society.
By learning these unique Japanese words, you are one step closer to understanding the Japanese soul.
Shinrinyoku literally translates as ‘forest bath’. It refers to taking a walk in the forest for its restorative and therapeutic benefits. Can’t you feel yourself relaxing as you soak up all the lovely green light? Scientists have actually found that walking in the forest has many health benefits such as lowering blood pressure and stress hormones. It seems the Japanese are one step ahead with their shinrinyoku practise!
The sunlight filtered through leaves on trees. This is a beautiful word to describe a beautiful moment. You can enjoy some komorebi while taking your shinrinyoku!
Kuidaore means something like ‘to eat yourself bankrupt’. The word implies a kind of extravagant love of good food and drink – so much love that you will happily spend all your money on it! It comes from the words 食い (kui – eating) and 倒れる (daoreru – to go bankrupt, be ruined). Kuidaore has come to be associated with the Dōtonbori district in Osaka, famed for its many restaurants and nightlife spots. You have been warned!
Here’s one for the book lovers. Tsundoku is the practise of acquiring books and letting them pile up, unread. Anyone who just loves books but doesn’t have time to read them as fast as they buy them will understand this one. It uses the words 積む (tsumu – to pile up) and 読 (doku – to read). It’s also a clever pun, because tsunde oku means ‘pile up and leave’.
Wabi-sabi means imperfect or incomplete beauty. This is a central concept in Japanese aesthetics, which comes from Buddhist teachings on the transient nature of life. A pot with a uneven edges is more beautiful than a perfectly smooth one, because it reminds us that life is not perfect. A Japanese craftsman will intentionally add in a small flaw after completing his perfect work in honour of this concept.
Kintsugi (金継ぎ), also known as kintsukuroi (金繕い), is the practise of mending broken pottery with gold or silver to fill the cracks. This is a perfect example of wabi-sabi. Rather than rejecting a broken item, you can find a way to make it even more beautiful. This practise accepts the break as part of the object’s unique history.
Mono no aware 物の哀れ
Mono no aware can be translated as ‘the sadness of things’. It comes from the words 物 (mono – thing) and 哀れ (aware – poignancy or pathos). The ‘sadness’ in question comes from an awareness of the transience of things, as taught by Zen Buddhism. When we view something exceptionally beautiful, we might feel sad because we know it won’t stay so beautiful forever – but appreciation only heightens the pleasure we take in the beautiful thing in that moment. The best example of mono no aware in Japanese culture is hanami, the ritual of appreciating the cherry blossoms each year. Cherry blossom are very special to the Japanese, but the flowers bloom for only two weeks in the springtime. We appreciate the flowers even more because we know they will fall soon.
Irusu is when somebody you don’t want to speak to rings your doorbell, and you pretend nobody’s at home. I think people do this the world over, even if other languages don’t have such a concise word for it!
Here’s a cute one! A nekojita is a person who is sensitive to hot foods and drinks. It literally translates as cat tongue! It’s made from the two words 猫 (neko – cat) and 舌 (shita – tongue). Do cats really hate hot things? I don’t know, but this Japanese word implies that they do!
Karoshi means death from overworking. Tragically, the fact that there is a word for this in Japanese also tells you something about Japanese culture. Karoshi is usually associated with Japanese salarymen who work in a corporate culture of extreme long hours. The Japanese Ministry of Labour official defines karoshi as when somebody works over 100 hours of overtime in the month before their death. The phenomenon reached an all time high last year.
If you live in Japan, this one will be very useful for you! Shoganai means ‘it can’t be helped’. It’s a fatalistic resignation to a situation that is out of your control. It is often used to mean that there is no point complaining about a situation, because you will not have the power to change it. Some people suggest that the concept of shoganai is why Japanese people remain so stoic in the face of natural disasters such as tsunami and earthquakes.
Natsukashii is often translated as ‘nostalgic’. However, whereas nostalgic is a sad emotion in English, natsukashii is usually associated with positive feelings. Something is natsukashii if it allows you to relive happy memories of the past.
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A deep love for books that dips into the philosophical.
Daydreams and nostalgia.
Words have the power to evoke all those feelings.
And in Japanese, there are words for all the fleeting feelings we described above-and more.
If you’re learning Japanese, you probably don’t need to be told that it’s a beautiful language. You already know.
Instead, we’d like to introduce you to a collection of beautiful Japanese words that we love, and you’re sure to enjoy too.
But first, what exactly makes a word “beautiful”?
What Makes a Japanese Word Beautiful?
What makes one word more beautiful than another? Here are a few factors that turn a Japanese word from a tool for communication into a work of art:
The way it rolls off the tongue.
English has its own set of words that are just pleasant to say. Nefarious. Equinox. Supine. Something about certain words can make one feel tingly right down to the bone.
Some Japanese words have a similar effect, even if you’re not a native speaker.
Aesthetically pleasing kana.
Japanese kanji, hiragana and katakana are incredibly beautiful alphabets to read and write. But some kana for particular words are especially beautiful-almost like an elegant drawing.
A unique and beautiful meaning not commonly found in the English language.
English can sometimes be a pretty limiting language. For example, our word for “love” is pretty much just “love.” In Hebrew, though, there are many other words for different types of love, such as lustful love, love of God, platonic love, etc.
Similarly, Japanese has words for things that you’ll never find in the English language, which is pretty fascinating and beautiful in itself!
Add these beautiful words to your vocabulary, use them in everyday conversation or simply keep them close to your heart as a reminder of the beauty of the Japanese language.
Better yet, add them to a literal vocabulary list on FluentU.
Definition: A word that sounds sweet and pleasant to the ear.
Ironically, our first beautiful Japanese word on this list can be used to describe beautiful Japanese words.
This expression is often used when someone says a word that’s audibly beautiful, but sometimes couples will use it when one of them compliments the other.
Person 1: 私の名前は日光です。(わたし の なまえ は にっこう です。) Person 1: My name is Sunshine.
Definition: The act of buying too many books and never reading them.
Many of us are guilty of this bad habit, but unfortunately, there’s no word for it in the English language.
While the meaning of this Japanese word is pretty unique, its sound is also beautiful: It rolls off the tongue and is just very pleasant to say out loud. Try it!
Definition: A cold fragrant wind that arrives shortly before wintertime.
In most places around the world, autumn is chilly. However, towards the end of October or even early November in Japan, there’s a cold, brisk and bitter wind that signals the beginning of colder weather.
If you’re outside at just the right moment to feel it, you’ll know that winter is on the way. This Japanese word beautifully represents the end of a season. Although this kind of wind occurs in many parts of the United States, there’s no word for it in English.
Definition: A mother who always relentlessly forces to her child towards academic achievement.
Maybe this isn’t the most beautiful word in the Japanese language, but it’s certainly a unique-and culturally relevant-term.
Depending on who you talk to, 教育ママ could be a very endearing and comedic term or a downright disastrous one.
In English, this word roughly translates to “educational mother.” This is typically an overbearing, obsessively supportive mother in Japan. An expression that’s close in meaning is “helicopter parent,” though the connotation is a bit different.
These moms are often stereotyped as air-headed but endearing women who tend to embarrass their kids by always bringing them to school, attending teacher conferences religiously, poking into parties to serve snacks, etc.
This term can also be an insult, as some of these mothers aren’t very well-meaning but rather are attempting to achieve financial and academic success vicariously through their children. Through the last decade, sometimes the 教育ママ are blamed for social phobias in young people.
Definition: “I will always protect you.”
This term is typically said by a romantic partner to their beloved.
You wouldn’t throw this out to just anybody. Reserve it for a tender moment between yourself and someone you’ve been dating for a while.
Definition: A wise and beautiful phrase that means “It just can’t be helped.”
When life gets rough and we blame ourselves for how things have ended up, remember this very smart and very true phrase often used by Japanese people.
The phrase describes the unpredictability of life and lack of control human beings really have in the grand scheme of things. People die, we lose friends, breakups happen, jobs are lost, economies crumble.
Remember that sometimes, things just can’t be helped.
Person 1: 最近、彼は失業したんだよ。(さいきん、かれ は しつぎょう したんだ よ。) Person 1: He lost his job recently.
Person 2: しょうがないよ。 Person 2: It can’t be helped.
Definition: To daydream longingly.
When someone’s staring out a window, paying no attention to the world, lost in their own thoughts-that’s ぼけっと.
It can be an endearing term or an annoying one, especially when a student isn’t paying attention to their teacher.
ぼけっとしないで！ Quit your daydreaming!
Definition: This essentially means “nostalgia,” but particularly nostalgia that occurs when something triggers memories from a specific season.
The term roughly translates to “seasonal tradition.” If the smell or sight of something reminds you of a particular season, it’s a 風物詩 moment.
Definition: The smell of rain before it begins to fall.
It’s worth noting that this is actually a borrowed word from English. “Petrichor” is the English word for the smell of rain and this Japanese word is a katakana borrowed from it.
Still, in either language, it’s a beautiful and pleasant thing you’ve probably experienced (unless you’re one of the 10% who can’t smell it -in which case, we’re so sorry!).
Person 1: いい香り だ。(いい かおり だ。) Person 1: What a lovely aroma.
Definition: Ineffable, impossible. It can also mean “too grand or powerful to describe in words.”
This term is usually used for something that’s totally impossible and unfeasible.
It can also be used to describe the grandness and indescribable nature of space, Earth, the heavens or anything that human beings can’t really grasp.
Are you entranced by these beautiful Japanese words? Remember, the more words you know, the closer to fluent you’ll become!
Emily Casalena is a published author, freelance writer and music columnist. She writes about a lot of stuff, from music to films to language.
English is a beautiful language as it is filled with all the amazing words which have the power to influence your day. Now if you are one of those who is looking for a good list of beautiful words then perhaps you have come to the right place. Whenever you are describing a woman you look of some of the best words that can make her feel confident hand happy. But sometimes you get stuck with the vocabulary. It would not happen to you anymore.
We will help you with learning some adjectives that will help you to describe a beautiful woman. We have already been into the fact that “Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder” which is a true fact. Hence we can say that everyone who could potentially have a different opinion of what the word beautiful means and what would be a beauty for them.
Beautiful Words to Express Beauty of a Women
Now we realize that this is a very subjective topic and it can be very difficult to pick out wrong and right here. So just to help you out we have come up with some really good adjectives that would be defining a beautiful woman.
The most common word that we hear for all girls and women. Cute is a word which means someone is very appealing and pretty in away. It can be used for a person you are usually attracted to. It is used to symbolize somebody whether in a romantic way or in a non-romantic way.
The meaning of the word can be similar to that of cute, which means someone who is really pretty and quite appealing in the appearance. It can also be used to describe the way to talk about in a lighter and more playful form.
Adore as you see is a verb and means that you have a deep love and respect for someone.
It is a bit strong word to describe a woman. It can also be considered as one of the most generic and objective ways to describe a woman. “Attractive” means that a person has a pleasing appearance which does not necessarily mean to denote romantic interest.
The word by definition means that something or someone which is very beautiful as well as very delicate in a refined way.
It is very similar to the word lovely. It is used when you wish to define a person’s extreme feminine beauty and shows that you are giving importance to the details.
The word itself means that something which very bright and shining. It is a kind of beautiful and specifically used to describe feminine beauty. With this word, you can describe the beauty in a very light, manner full of energy.
By definition, it is a word that is used to describe a woman who is very attractive and with her boldness and confidence. It is her look that makes her appear wild and superior. It is a British slang word that is mostly used to describe a confident woman.
The English dictionary is filled with a lot more word that can be used to describe a woman in a positive way. These are some of the sweet words that you can use for your female friends, colleagues or even your elders.
These are some of the words which can make her day. Being positive does not cost you anything so always be positive. If you can put up some more words then they are always welcomed. For more updates stay tuned to EnglishBix.
Aishiteru – Love is A Strong Word in the Japanese Culture
The Japanese word for love is Aishiteru which is pronounced as A-i-shi-te-ru. When said in a more respectful and formal way this word becomes Aishitemasu (A-ish-i-te-ma-su). So Aishiteru or Aishitemasu literally translates into “I Love You” in the English language. But let us now understand the significance of this Japanese word for love and the way it is perceived by Japanese women and men. In traditional Japanese culture the use of the word love on a regular basis was considered as a taboo. This way of thought is still prevalent amongst most Japanese people as they believe that using the Japanese word for love as a form of expressing one’s feelings dilutes its meaning and purpose completely. So it is not uncommon to have a relationship with a Japanese woman and hardly ever hear her say “I love you”. But this doesn’t mean that she doesn’t share the same feelings of love that you do. It’s just that Japanese girls come from a culture where the word love is not used very vocally but rather expressed through one’s actions and behavioral responses.
Suki Dayo – A More Appropriate Way of Expressing Your Love
So what would be a suitable word or phrase that would be closes to “I Love You” but not as strong as the literal translation Aishiteru? Well if you want to express your love to a Japanese woman saying Suki Dayo which is pronounced as Su-ki-Da-yo would be completely appropriate. While the word Suki Dayo literally translates into “I Like You” in the English language it is actually used in Japan in the same way “I Love You” is used in the West!
So does this mean that Aishiteru,the Japanese word for love is a strict taboo and should never be used by you while expressing your love to your Japanese girlfriend? Well the answer is actually quite subjective. With the strong western influences in Japan, people perceptions are also changing and Japanese men and women are becoming more open about talking about love which was otherwise a subject that was hardly ever discussed and regarded as best kept to oneself. Still the Japanese word for love has a very deep emotional significance and should be used when and if you really love and are committed to a Japanese girl and that too once in a while! And that means that if you are dating a Japanese girl or would like to date one then saying Suki Dayo would be the best way to express your feelings!
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