7 Emotions That Can’t Be Explained in English


Image source: Pixabay.com. CC0 Public Domain license. By Erika Wittlieb.

Occasionally, emotions that we can’t identify well up within us, causing us to experience confusion over how to react.

In an article in the January/February 2016 issue of Psychology Today, Mark R. Leary, Duke University professor of psychology and neuroscience, explains this phenomenon. He writes

Emotions have motivational consequences. They tell us what to do. If you can’t tell what you’re feeling, then it’s a lot more puzzling to know how you should react: I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. I don’t know whether to approach you or avoid you.

Thankfully, there are a handful of words from around the world that we English-speakers can adopt to ease our bewilderment.

1. Memento mori
A Latin phrase meaning “to remember [that you have] to die,” memento mori manifests itself as the dawning acceptance that, in the grand scheme of things, your life is a blip. The victories, the defeats, the anger and stress, the happiness and relaxation — all of it is a blink in the history of time.

2. Vardøgr
From Norwegian, vardøgr is a “premonitory sound or sight of a person before he or she arrives.” The closest English equivalent is premonition, although that relates more to events rather than sight or sound.

3. Schadenfreude
Likely the most recognizable on this list, schadenfreude is the German word for deriving pleasure from someone else’s pain or misfortune. You may find yourself experiencing schadenfreude when karma finally catches up to someone. For instance, if your nasty, boot-licking co-worker tries to get you fired and ends up losing his job, that ping of glee you experience is schadenfreude.

4. Pena ajena
From Mexican Spanish, pena ajena is a feeling of embarrassment for someone in an indirect, painful way. You may experience pena ajena if you see someone falling over drunk in public, especially if they’re with you; you’re both and neither embarrassed for them and by them.

5. Gezellig
A Dutch word to describe the warm, delighted sense of spending time with good friends, gezellig tends to wash over us after a particularly enjoyable evening with people we like. It reminds us that we are connected to others outside of ourselves or our immediate families, and is both a source of comfort and reassurance.

6. Razliubit
From Russian, razliubit is the emotion of falling out of love. Generally a slow process, razliubit is the process gradual process of no longer caring for someone. We often call it “drifting apart.” If you’ve ever found yourself at the end of a relationship saying, “S/he’s a great guy/girl, I just didn’t love him/her anymore,” you’ve experienced razliubit.

7. Age-otori
Have you ever walked out of the salon thinking, Yikes, this is BAD? If so, you’ve experienced age-otori. Roughly translated to “the regret one feels after getting a bad haircut,” age-otori can occur if you don’t know what you want, if you have an inexperienced stylist, or, in one personal instance, the stylist thought flipping out layers on a short, stacked bob was a good idea. (Hint: it wasn’t.)

Have you ever experienced an emotion that you can’t identify?

A version of this article originally appeared on lynndaue.com.

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