Beautiful & Untranslatable: Words from Around the World

While English increases in popularity, there are words and phrases commonly found in various other languages that will never be directly translatable. We’re here to celebrate these beautiful, strange, and often elaborate expressions that hold importance to their respective cultures.


There are so many reasons to be fascinated by the Portuguese language. Beyond having an estimated 220 million speakers worldwide, it’s worth noting that geography and history play a large role in the language’s development. With Portuguese speakers in Cape Verde, Mozambique, Angola, Portugal, and not to mention Brazil, it’s no wonder that Portuguese is the 6th most spoken language in the world.

Brazilian Portuguese is especially fascinating. With words derived from the Tupi language as well as West African Yoruban loan words and influences, Brazilian Portuguese is unique in its history and in its relation to contemporary European Portuguese.

The word “cafuné” comes from those roots. A uniquely Brazilian word that is of Yoruban origin, which was a language spoken by slaves in Brazil. “Cafuné” is one word that encompasses an entire action / mood sequence: the act of running your fingers through someone’s hair in a tender way. It’s an act that is calming, and loving, and is used to show affection toward people closest to us.  “Cafuné” is beautifully explained in this article:

Cafuné is a force of affection, of tenderness, but most importantly it’s a calming force.
It’s what mothers do to their child. A partner does for their partner after a long day’s work. It is a sign of love, of your hands kissing your head to go to sleep and sooth your mind and thoughts. It’s a friend’s hand hugging your soul by tenderly touching your strands of hair.

See more beautiful, untranslatable words and phrases from languages all around the world!

Want to explore how to reach more Portuguese speakers around the world? Get in touch with our team to discuss how translations can help.