Beyond… A Journey Within

Swati Singh

5 Soul-Stirring Untranslatable Words

Published on New York Spirit


Words become beautiful by the way they sound and by the meaning attributed to it. When strung meticulously, words have a rhythm; they paint a picture; they express the inexplicable feelings in the strongest way possible. They become poetry, they become the emotion itself; they touch hearts, they come alive.

Books are being translated over the centuries so that people all over the world get the opportunity to read the words of wisdom. Yet, every one of us would agree that there are words and phrases, metaphors and sayings which we understand because we are born in the land of that word but cannot exactly translate into another language. Those words can only be felt, not elucidated.

Sometimes, the world demands one universal language so that the communication becomes effortless yet I wonder how can we afford to lose such beautiful words in each language which evoke expression like no other.


(Yoo-gehn) /n/Japanese

Yugen can be described as a profound, mysterious sense of the beauty of the universe and the sad beauty of human suffering. It is an awareness of this universe which triggers an intense and mystifying emotional response which is beyond words.

In the tranquil moments, we reach a state where we become conscious of the vastness of this cosmos and the connection of everything around us, the bliss, the pain, the beauty in everything. When all can be seen with such depths and heights, it often flows out with a sense of overwhelm as it is just too much for our body to contain this sentiment inside. Nature holds such power with subtlety.

It is an important concept in traditional Japanese aesthetics. Finding beauty in simplicity and often what the world term as imperfections or mundane has always been the philosophy there. It is the altered state of consciousness that helps one to see the beauty and get lost in it evoking yugen.




Meraki is used to describe something which is done with all your heart and soul. When you put your essence in what you do, it is said to be done with meraki. It could be dance, cooking, writing, gardening or any simple task in which your essence is forever etched into it. Isn’t that how life is truly lived?

Thich Nhat Hanh illustrates in his book, The Miracle of Mindfulness, “There are two ways to wash the dishes. The first is to wash the dishes in order to have clean dishes and the second is to wash the dishes in order to wash the dishes.”

It happens when we do everything by being mindful of those moments. Spiritual path entails that we do everything with meraki.



It is a Nguni Bantu term literally translated to “humanity”. However, the deep-rooted philosophy behind this word define it as the universal bond of sharing that connects all of us. It is the belief that we are defined by our compassion and kindness towards one another.

There is also a famous story where an anthropologist proposed a game to an African tribe kids where the winner of a race gets the fruit basket. They all held hands and ran together and began enjoying their treats. When asked why didn’t they try to win all fruits for themselves, they said how can one of us be happy when all others are sad? Ubuntu is “I am because we are”.

We need ubuntu’s philosophy in today’s world more than ever. As Alex Lenferna, an activist shares how thinking about our collective humanity could help form a united front of environmentalism.

Hoping ubuntu becomes the religion of this violence-stricken world.




Sophrosyne is a sound-mindedness which results in characteristics like self-control, self-restraint and an awareness of one’s true self which results in true happiness and harmony. It is perhaps best expressed by the two most famous sayings of the Oracle at Delphi: ‘Nothing in excess’ and ‘Know thyself.’

The philosophy of sophrosyne is conveyed in many different forms by great sages. Minimalism is a way of living where one detaches oneself from unnecessary clutter. Searching oneself is a lifelong journey and discovering oneself every day is what a spiritualist do.



(t-OH-s-k-ah /n/Russian)

It’s a well-known word among literary geniuses of the world due to its complexity in translation.

Vladimir Nabokov, the famous Russian-American author described the word better than anyone else could ever hope to: “No single word in English renders all the shades of toska. At its deepest and most painful, it is a sensation of great spiritual anguish, often without any specific cause. “

Toska is poetic. It is a nostalgia. It is a yearning of a soul for something which is not a tangible thing, something ethereal which evokes a feeling of emptiness within. It is sadness with a shade of a person’s own definition of the word based on the circumstances they are in. It is a word with such a vast description of sadness that no matter how we give an explanation in English, it might not carry the same weight.

We all have seen the unpredicted nature of life. Sadness is as much a part of life as happiness is. Though both the emotions are fleeting ones; the word Toska describes a deeper sense of emotion. We really need this word in English dictionary.

Which one of these words spoke to your heart?



2 comments on “5 Soul-Stirring Untranslatable Words

  1. MySoulsIntent
    July 22, 2017

    Ohhhh my my my dear dear precious Swati…each of these precious terms describe the vast essence of my Soul!!! I so love this most BEAUTIFUL and essential sharing dear gal!!! TYSM… namaste….much love Barb :-)))))))))))

    Liked by 2 people

    • Swati Singh
      July 26, 2017

      Thank you, Barb. Your heartfelt messages make the day more positive. Love.


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This entry was posted on July 8, 2017 by in Spiritual, Words and tagged , , , , , , .

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