English Copywriter in Paris: words without translation

English Copywriter in Paris: words without translation

In one of my recent posts, I mentioned some of my favourite French words with no direct English translation. This got me digging and I’ve come up with some more delightfully unique words both in French and other languages.

Here’s my little list.

French words no English equivalent

La douleur exquise: the heart-wrenching pain of wanting someone who is unattainable (addictive drug-like effect).

Chômer: the active state of being unemployed – does this say something about French attitudes to unemployment?

Profiter: To make the most of or take advantage of – when translating or adapting texts I’m always frustrating at not having a one word equivalent.

Empêchement: An unexpected change of plans at the last minute – a great excuse without needing to be specific referring to anything from a burst water pipe, traffic jam or sudden desire to have a cosy evening at home!


Here are a couple of words in other languages with no simple equivalent in English.

Cavoli Riscaldati: This phrase is used by Italians to refer to attempts to revive old relationships (it literally means “reheated cabbage”)!

Schlimmbesserung: Germans use this fabulous, and much needed, word to talk about so-called improvements that make things worse.

Tartle: This Scottish word describes moments of hesitation in recognising someone or something – think of all those times you started introducing an acquaintance and suddenly forgot their name!

To finish off, here are some English words that are hard to translate.

Do you have more words or phrases that simply don’t exist in English? I love to hear them!

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