Originally appeared in Planet Jackson Hole

Being a lover of travel and languages, I find it fun to study words from languages around the world that express things we’re all familiar with, but don’t quite translate in English. Enjoy this light-hearted summer list of words from around the world, which express common experiences about love and relationships. The fact that we all share the same sentiments no matter what the culture is one more validation of our inherent connection, and that we are far more similar than we are different.

Tagalog (The Philippines)

Gilgil – Does your friend, child, lover, even a cute puppy, evoke this in you? The word describes the irresistible urge to hug someone you find deliciously endearing and loveable.

Layogenic – You see someone from far away who appears attractive, but then you get closer and uh, oh... oops, nevermind.


German has incredibly colorful words, which capture so much. Hopefully you’ll be smiling as you recognize these perfectly captured sentiments.

Gretchenfrage – There is a lot of this word going on when you are on a first date. It is a question asked to find out someone’s real intentions.

Verschlimmbessern – You know this feeling. This word means to make something worse when trying to improve it.

Geborgenheit – This is the feeling of safety that comes from being with loved ones.


Spanish also has wonderful words that depict experiences we can all recognize.

Flechazo – This describes the experience when cupid shoots his arrow (flecha) right into your heart. Love at first sight.

Engentado – Oh yes, after lots of interaction with people, this is the feeling of being “peopled out” when you wish to just be alone.


Here is an Italian expression we are missing in English.

Cavoli riscaldati – When you attempt, yet one more time, to rekindle an already failed relationship or love affair. It translates in English to “reheated cabbage.”

Portuguese (Brazil)

This Brazilian Portuguese word is one of my favorites.

Cafune – This refers to the warmth and tenderness evoked in someone you love as you run your fingers through his or her hair or gently stroke the nape of the neck at the hairline. When no words can describe the feeling that’s cafune.


Jayus – This describes a kind of hilarity when a person who just can’t tell a joke to save his or her life keeps trying. The person goes on and on, forgetting key things along the way, and when finally arriving to the punch line, that is botched too. The telling itself is so ridiculous, the joke so atrocious, that the entire thing becomes hilarious. A jayus is contagious laughter at that kind of joke.


Forelsket – This is the kind of bliss and pure radiant joy… the unbearable lightness of being that accompanies falling in love.

Gjensynsglede – The joy of connecting with someone you haven’t seen in a long time.

Utepils – Only in summer, this a beer you drink outside.

Hebrew (Israel)

Firgun – The simple and unselfish joy felt when something good has happened to someone else.

Urdu (Pakistan)

Naz – The feeling of overflowing with fullness and delight that someone loves you unconditionally.

Serbian (Serbia, Croatia)

Merak – I hope you all experience this one many times this summer. It is a sense of oneness with the universe from the simplest of pleasures.