10 Inspiring Foreign Words the English Language Needs

We’re all in pursuit of Hózhó

Dec 21, 2016

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The spoken or written word keeps us connected to each other and allows us to express ourselves with a level of precision that cannot be found in any other form of communication. Today, there are roughly 7,000 languages spoken around the world, each offering their unique vocabulary. Chinese, English, Hindi, and Spanish are the most popular, but what about the other dialects that go unnoticed to most? With 2,400 languages in danger of dying out, we’re going back to the days of vocab lessons and taking a look at some of the most inspiring words found in other languages. You might earn a few puzzled looks for using these words, but the underying concepts will surely give you something to ponder for the new year.

1. KENSHŌ

Where it comes from: Japan
Definition: This Japanese term comes from the Zen tradition and is made up of Ken meaning "seeing" and shō meaning "nature, essence." Combined into one, Kenshō means an initial enlightening experience, which is then to be followed by further training to deepen it.

2. PILIRIQATIGIINNIQ 

Where it comes from: Inuktitut, Canada
Definition: Working in a collaborative way with others for the common good.

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3. FAGO

Where it comes from: Ifaluk, Ifaluk Island, Pacific Ocean
Definition: Fago is a fundamental concept combining the meanings compassion, love, and sadness. It is used to describe nurturing feelings with which one person confronts another who is in need.

4. WOOHITIKE

Where it comes from: Lakota, North and South Dakota, US
Definition: The courage every person has deep inside of them stemming from the wisdom of life and death, as well as one’s honor.

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5. HOʻOPONOPONO

Where it comes from: Hawaiian, Hawaii
Definition: When two or more people come together with a mutual sense of forgiveness.

6. TURANGAWAEWAE

Where it comes from: Maori, New Zealand
Definition: The literal definition means a place to stand, but the word also conveys our place in the world, where we feel empowered and supported.

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7. WANTOK

Where it comes from: Tok Pisin, Papua New Guinea
Definition: Wantok literally means "someone who speaks my language" and, in a country with over 800 spoken languages, refers to anyone who is from your family or a close, or sometimes not so close, friend.

8. XIBIPÍÍO

Where it comes from: Pirahã, Amazonian Brazil
Definition: Xibipíío, loosely translated, means something like "the act of just entering or leaving perception, that is, a being on the boundaries of experience" and describes the rush of experiencing and perceiving a feeling or event.

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9. HÓZHÓ

Where it comes from: Navajo, US
Definition: Working towards a sense of balance within oneself, our planet, and in life.

10. ONDINNONK

Where it comes from: Iroquoian, North America
Definition: The innermost desires of a person’s soul, usually revealed in their dreams.

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REBECCA WOJNO, CONTRIBUTOR
Rebecca is passionate about reading, cooking, and learning about people doing good in the world. She especially loves writing about wellness, personal growth, and relationships.

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