English Words with No Equivalents

You’ve seen the lists of words with no English equivalents and you’ve seen really, truly the utmost very best that English has to offer, but have you ever wondered what words are particular to English? I’m talking about words that have no equivalents in other languages.

Well, friends, wonder no longer. I have compiled a list for you. Now you can marvel at the intricacies and quirks of the English language. What does it tell about English speakers and their culture that they had to invent words for these strange things? Your guess is as good as mine. On to the list!

1. a, the, in, on, for, to, from – These simple words have no equivalents in Finnish. The poor Finns are stuck putting suffixes on words. It’s a shame really. How do they manage?

2. never – Never mind prepositions and determiners, the helpless Finns are also stuck without a word for never. The closest they have is ei ikinä, which roughly translates to “not ever.”

3. yesterday, today, tomorrow – While we’re up in the Nordic countries, can you believe that Danish and Swedish have no word for yesterday, today, or tomorrow. That’s right. Instead their stuck with i går, i dag, i morgen. Time must move so slow for them!

4. please – Ever wonder why French people are so rude? It’s because it takes them three times as many words (s’il vous plaît) to say please than it does for us. Spanish speakers are in the middle with two – por favor.

5. fuhgeddaboudit – can you believe that Italian doesn’t have a word for fuhgeddaboudit? I thought it was an Italian word! I thought it was passed down through generations of guidos and paisans. Who knew? I guess it’s Jewish.

This is just a sampling of words that English has been blessed with. When faced with such intricate and novel ideas as the ones expressed by the words in this list, other languages are at a loss.


Author: Joe McVeigh

I'm a linguist who researches email marketing. I also teach at the University of Jyväskylä in Finland. I write about language and linguistics on my blog, ...And Read All Over, and I write about language and marketing on my other blog, Email and Linguistics.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s