Updated: May 11, 2016
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5 Japanese Words Untranslatable In English That You Should Know

Languages are complicated. There are many cases that some words in a language have no 100% equivalent in another language.

British psychologist Tim Lomas recently published a list of 216 positivity-laden words that have no equivalent in the English language. Keen to know which Japanese words made it to this list? Interested to find out how you can steer yourself towards greater emotional well-being by being mindful of these words? Read on to find out!

1) Koi no yokan

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Have you felt a warm, fuzzy, even tipsy feeling when you meet someone? This may be your subconscious nudging you about koi no yokan (when you meet someone and just know that you are destined to fall in love)!

2) Komorebi

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We feel happy and energetic outdoors, with the rays of sunlight caressing our face. Now Japanese people have a phrase “komorebi” to describe sunlight filtering through the leaves of trees. Doesn’t this phrase add a poetic flourish, thus helping you to be grateful for this moment when you are bathed in sunlight?

3) Otsukaresama

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Over the course of a work day, we have to tackle many thankless tasks. But surely we would go about them cheerfully if our co-workers are thoughtful enough to say Otsukaresama, a phrase which conveys their appreciation for our hard work.

4) Wabi-sabi

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Wabi-sabi refers to the beauty of an object with all its quirks as well as changes with age and even decay. A much-cherished way of life, wabi-sabi enables Japanese people to take notice of the transcience of beauty and still be grateful for it nonetheless.

5) Genki

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Yes, genki as in the set phrase for greeting someone, ogenki desu ka? Rather than its English equivalent “How are you?” this greeting asks one whether he is being healthy, energetic and full of life. Do state empathetically that you are genki every time a Japanese person asks you this even when you are having a bad day because saying genki will evoke positive energy, which will help you face your challenges!
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