That Feeling You Can't Describe? There's a Word For That

This illustrated set of notecards does all the talking for you.

For all its history, the English language is lacking in certain areas. We don't have a word for that phenomenon when you think of an amazing comeback a few seconds too late (the French came up with that), for the feeling you get when you experience something especially romantic (we'd have to turn to Tagalog), or that punch to the gut when you realize you've just fallen out of love (leave it to the Russians to coin that one). (More on those below….)

For her book Lost in Translation, released in September, Ella Frances Sanders illustrated 50 of her favorite foreign words that don't have a direct English translation, everything from the feeling one gets right before making a declaration of love to the length of time it takes to eat a banana. Now, all of Sanders's quirky illustrations from the book have been republished as notecards, giving everyone who has trouble saying exactly what they mean a new approach to interpersonal communication. Pin a card on your wall, use one as a bookmark, or send one off to a special someone this holiday season.

Below are some of our favorite nearly untranslatable words, as illustrated by Ella Frances Sanders.

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"Kilig," Tagalog

Noun: "The feeling of butterflies in your stomach, usually when something romantic or cute takes place."

Sanders's Take: "You know exactly what this is. Once it's taken hold, there's no stopping that can't-think-straight, smiling-for-no-reason, spine-tingling feeling that starts somewhere deep inside the walls of your stomach."

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"Naz," Urdu

Noun: "The pride and assurance that comes from knowing you are loved unconditionally."

Sanders's Take: "Knowing there are people who would follow you to the ends of the earth and back again puts a certain spring in your step and a certain kind of smile on your face."

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"Fika," Swedish

Verb: "Gathering together to talk and take a break from everyday routines, usually drinking coffee and eating pastries—either at a café or at home—often for hours on end."

Sanders's Take: "The combination of coffee and conversation is a great one, and often leads to inspired exchanges, bright ideas, and general caffeine-induced brilliance. It is perhaps unsurprising that fika is a social institution—Swedes have nearly twice the average per capita coffee consumption of the European Union."

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"Forelsket," Norwegian

Noun: "The indescribable euphoria you experience as you begin to fall in love."

Sanders's Take: "Maybe this is something you've yet to experience, or maybe you've had it happen to you repeatedly. Either way, it's wonderful. Research has shown that forelsket is most likely to occur when you wear your heart on your sleeve."

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"Wabi-Sabi," Japanese

Noun: "Finding beauty in the imperfections, an acceptance of the cycle of life and death."

Sanders's Take: "Derived from Buddhist teachings, this is a Japanese aesthetic centered around discovering beauty in imperfections and incompleteness. An acceptance of our transience and the asymmetry within our lives can lead us to a more fulfilling yet modest existence."

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"Gezellig," Dutch

Adjective: "Describes much more than just coziness—a positive, warm emotion or feeling rather than just something physical—and connotes time spent with loved ones, togetherness."

Sanders's Take: "Ask any Dutch person, and they will tell you about gezellig. It is something that embodies their warm, welcoming culture and encompasses all of those things that make you cozy on the inside, like family, good conversations, and hugs."

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"Tiám," Farsi

Noun: "The twinkle in your eye when you first meet someone."

Sanders's Take: "Maybe they are just anybody, or maybe they are clearly somebody special, but there is something resembling a small sliver of sunlight in your eyes, and you are happy to have met them."

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"Tsundoku," Japanese

Noun: "Leaving a book unread after buying it, typically piled up together with other unread books."

Sanders's Take: "The tsundoku scale can range from just one unread book to a serious hoard, so you are most likely guilty of it. As intellectual as you may look tripping over an unread copy of Great Expectations on your way to the front door, those pages probably deserve to see the daylight."

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"Commuovere," Italian

Verb: "To be moved in a heartwarming way, usually relating to a story that moved you to tears."

Sanders's Take: "Maybe you had a single tear rolling down your cheek, or maybe you were crying for days afterward. Touching and powerful stories hit you in the most inexplicable, unexpected, and undeniably human ways."

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"Luftmensch," Yiddish

Noun: "Refers to someone who is a bit of a dreamer and literally means 'air person.'"

Sanders's Take: "Your head is in the clouds, and you aren't coming down anytime soon. You're living in a dream world—the 9-to-5 has no place here and paperwork doesn't exist at this altitude. So, it's out with reality and in with the impractical."

See every illustration from the Lost in Translation Note Cards, $16,

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