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The Hardest Words to Translate

Have you ever wondered what the hardest words to translate are? Translating them is quite challenging, as it requires a deep understanding of the original language’s context, as well as direct comprehension of the speaker. Here’s a short breakdown of these words.

10 of the Hardest Words to Translate in the World

Across different languages and cultures, there are some words that simply defy easy translation. These words are built on complex emotions, cultural concepts, and ideas. But what exactly are the hardest words to translate out there in the world?


1. ‘Saudade’ – Portuguese
One of the hardest words to translate is Saudade in Portuguese. Its meaning is the deep emotional stage of longing for someone or something. It is a unique word not only in pronunciation or writing but also in meaning. Finding the right translation or equivalent words in another language is nearly impossible.


2. ‘Wabi-sabi’ – Japanese
Another hard word is the Japanese word Wabi-sabi, which represents finding beauty in imperfections. This word is related to Japanese culture and their philosophy of life, which means that translating it into another language would diminish its profound meaning. Often, the word is hard to fit into other cultures’ jargon.


3. ‘Dépaysement’ – French
In French, the word Dépaysement illustrates a strange feeling of exhilaration and disorientation. Translating it into other languages is hard because its original meaning is too specific to be adapted into other expressions, often resulting in funny translations instead.


4. ‘Besa’ – Albanian
In Albanian, the famous word Besa describes a saint-like oath and solemn promise rooted in Albanian culture. Besa is related to Albania’s historical context, so it carries the great significance of trust and loyalty native to the land. Translators find it challenging to interpret its original meaning in another language.


5. ‘Sobremesa’ – Spanish
In Spanish, the word Sobremesa represents the time spent eating or enjoying a conversation after the meal. It is related to Spain’s cultural atmosphere because of its after-dinner conversations, which are famously known as table talk. To translate this word, interpreters need to understand Spain’s cultural background and adjust to the best alternative.


6. ‘Schadenfreude’ – German
In German, the word Schadenfreude explains the feeling of contentment at someone’s unluckiness or mischance. This is understandable for English speakers, but it is a challenge for other translators who lack an understanding of Germany’s cultural landscape.


7. ‘Sisukas’ – Finnish
The Finnish word Sisukas means determination, resilience, and tenacity when facing adversity. The expression is based on Finland’s depth and cultural significance, whose deep meaning cannot be easily translated.


8. ‘Tarab’ – Arabic
The Arabic word Tarab’signifies the emotional effect of poetry or music that impacts a person’s sense of joy. Translating and conveying its cultural and emotional context requires more than understanding the word.


9. Virah – Hindi
The Hindi word Virah translated plainly, means longing or separation. It explains the deeper emotional state of experiencing separation from a loved one. The word carries a profound emotional essence, especially for romantic relationships. Capturing this emotional connectivity in an accurate and precise sense is difficult for translators.


10. ‘Ubuntu’ – Nguni Bantu
In Nguni Bantu languages, Ubuntu is a concept that describes humanity and the interconnectedness of all people. It’s a mix of compassion, empathy, and communal unity. Translating it into other languages requires more than just finding an equivalent word, but also a philosophical understanding of the culture.


How Can Interpreters Translate Complex Expressions?

When translators aim to understand and translate the hardest words in the world, they face many challenges. For example, some languages have words with multiple meanings, while others have words that encompass multiple feelings and ideas. So, it’s quite difficult for people and agencies who offer translation services to find the best word on the spot.

To convey these words’ true meaning, translators need to focus on their roots and highlight the true importance of their intention. These challenges require translators not only to know the original language but also to understand its culture, history, and context in depth.

The cultural background and skills of the translator play a crucial role in understanding and translating the hardest words. A translator can become lost in his or her culture and background when he or she has difficulty conveying the meaning in another language.


The Skills Needed for Translating the Hardest Words

To achieve success in translating difficult words, translators need a unique set of skills and creativity. First, they must have a deep understanding of the languages involved, including their cultures, grammar, vocabulary, and syntaxes. This understanding allows them to convert messages accurately and ensure that the translations are appropriate.


Translators also need to develop research skills and understand the cultural context of the words. It is not sufficient to merely translate words; they must also comprehend the meaning behind them. This requires researching the history, social customs, and literature that convey the message and significance of the language.


Another important skill is creativity. Translators must be creative and think outside the box to convey the message accurately. It may involve using metaphors and analogies or even creating new phrases that complete the original context of the word.


Additionally, professional translators should connect with words and experience their meanings through emotions, cultural insights, and personal experiences. This fosters empathy, enabling a deeper understanding of the word. Empathy’s impact on translation is incredible, as it matches meaning with words, culture, and all the emotional aspects involved.

Ultimately, this approach allows the translation to resonate with the same richness and context as the original. Through empathy, translators can capture the deeper layers of meaning and the nuances of unique words.


Cultural Understanding
Experienced translations should be able to excel at deciphering idiomatic expressions and cultural references, on top of everything else. This skill ensures that translations are appropriate and effectively convey the richness and essence of the original meaning.

For successful translations, these skills must be combined and further developed to enhance the meaning of words, expressions, and idioms. Translators must ultimately overcome the complexity of translating difficult words by deepening their cultural understanding and broadening their horizons. Once they do that, they can properly convey everything.



Interpreting the hardest words in the world is challenging and demands skills that align with a professional interpreter’s experience. By continuously developing their abilities, practicing daily, and conveying messages clearly, interpreters ensure that the true essence of the original remains intact and delightful.

In the end, it’s crucial to grasp the cultural context and bridge linguistic and cultural divides. And if you need help with that, you can always reach out to our experienced interpreters, who will make sure your messages are conveyed properly on any occasion.

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