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10 Breathtaking Foreign Words

Updated on
May 19, 2022
Grammar
Breathtaking Foreign Words List

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, the proverb says. In this case, it’s in the ear. Every language has its own combinations of sounds that sound especially beautiful to its native speakers. J.R.R. Tolkien famously wrote about the beauty of the phrase cellar door in English, a sentiment he shared with many other writers.

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In other cases, the beauty of a word lies in its meaning rather than its sound. These ten words are a mix of the two. Some sound pretty; others have interesting and beautiful meanings. There’s beauty to be found in all of them. But there’s also beauty to be found in many other words. If you know of a particularly pretty non-English word, make sure to mention it in a comment.

Two people shot from the waist down, creating a heart with their hands. Overlaid text says: Leannán. Irish, noun. Lover, darling, or sweetheart.

1 Leannán Leannán is an Irish word, but you can also find a similar word in Scottish Gaelic. They share the same meaning—leannán means “lover,” “darling,” or “sweetheart.”

A view looking down at feet standing at the shoreline on a beach. Overlaid text says: Saudade. Portuguese, noun. A deep melancholy or nostalgia felt when yearning for something—or someone—who is not there.

2 Saudade To say that saudade is the state you’re in when you’re missing something or someone wouldn’t do justice to this Portuguese word. Saudade is a deep melancholy or nostalgia you feel when yearning for something—or someone—who is not there.

Butterflies perched on a plate of fruit. Overlaid text says: Papillon. French, noun. Butterfly.

3 Papillon This one might be familiar to English-speakers. Papillon means “butterfly” in French.

Two people walking down a city sidewalk holding hands. Overlaid text says: Sevdah. Turkish root, noun. Lovesickness or sense of yearning or longing for love.

4 Sevdah Sevdah comes from the Ottoman Turkish word “sevda.” They added that “h” at the end in the Balkans, and the word today exists in the Bosnian, Croatian, and Serbian languages, where it means lovesickness or a sense of yearning or longing for love.

Lebenskünstler Definition

5 Lebenskünstler From the language that lent us such notable compounds as “schadenfreude” comes the word Lebenskünstler—literally the “artist of life,” what we might call a hedonist, or maybe a bon vivant.

A view of the sky with thick clouds at sunset. Overlaid text says: Haneul. Korean, noun. Sky, heaven.

6 Haneul Haneul is a Korean word that means “sky.” In religious contexts, it also refers to heaven.

A dark forest, thick with green fir trees. Overlaid text says: Shinrin-yoku. Japanese, noun. Forest bathing—going into the woods for a mentally soothing experience.

7 Shinrin-yoku Shinrin-yoku is a Japanese word that means “forest bathing”—the practice of going into the woods for a mentally soothing experience.

A group of people standing in a circle and laughing. Overlaid text says: Sonrisa. Spanish, noun. Smile.

8 Sonrisa To someone who is only vaguely familiar with Spanish, sonrisa might look like a word for sunrise. They look alike, don’t they? However, sonrisa actually means “smile.”

A frozen branch with icicles dripping from its tip. Overlaid text says: Kapel. Russian, noun. The meltwater that drips from the roofs and trees during spring thaw.

9 Kapel You know when there’s a particularly sunny day during the winter, and the snow starts thawing and dripping from the roofs and the trees? Well, that’s called kапель in Russian.

A top-down view of green fir trees. Overlaid text says: Zindabad. Urdu, interjection, imperative. A cheer often used after a name to wish someone health and long life.

10 Zindabad Zindabad is an Urdu word of Persian origin. It is mostly used as a cheer, but if you say it right after another word or name, it means “long live.”

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