The 16 Most Difficult English Words to Translate

A common misconception is that if you simply speak two languages, you can translate. Just take the corresponding words in the other language and translate the text—easy, right?

Well, no. With the exception of basic vocabulary that is common to all languages—“sun,” “tree,” “rain,” etc.—most words don’t have exact one-to-one translations in other languages, especially across different language families. Even if the meaning is the same, the nuance or usage may be different, making translation far more an art than a science.

Most languages also have words that are more or less unique to them (or their language family) that are particularly difficult to translate. “Multitasking”? German just adopted the word. Japanese made a Japanified version (maruchitasuku-suru).

Slang words are also particularly difficult to translate across languages, with “bromance,” “facepalm,” and the linguistic anomaly “y’all’d’ve” making the list for English. In this infographic, you can learn which other English words are *tough* to translate.

16 Most Difficult English Words to Translate
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