Definition of untranslatable in US English:



  • (of a word, phrase, or text) not able to have its sense satisfactorily expressed in another language.

    ‘an untranslatable German pun’
    • ‘It was a year ago to the day since the first Argentinazo, a word that is completely untranslatable into English or, for that matter, Spanish.’
    • ‘There's a delightful book - They Have a Word for It - which is a compendium of untranslatable words and phrases that shows how words have the power to impart new understanding just by putting a name to something.’
    • ‘They should remember one of Germany's untranslatable gifts to the English language: schadenfreude.’
    • ‘So our question becomes: can we make sense of the idea of a language that is (in principle) untranslatable?’
    • ‘The gallery press release informs us that Hitorigoto is an untranslatable Japanese word that refers to the experience of inner thought or dialogue.’
    • ‘The Times has translated for you the most untranslatable word in the world.’
    • ‘In a worldwide poll of professional translators, Ilunga won the award for the most untranslatable word in the world.’
    • ‘These Dutch terms are really untranslatable, containing more nuances than can be satisfactorily conveyed by a single English word.’
    • ‘Elsewhere, as when she remarks in a section on language that ‘human rights’ is a concept untranslatable into Chinese, you feel a more elaborate discussion of the situation is called for.’
    • ‘Surely you need to fix the target language to decide what the most untranslatable word would be.’
    • ‘His objection to this thesis is that we should reject the relativist's assumption that there is a plurality of mutually untranslatable languages.’
    • ‘Viewers might feel excluded from an indefinable club that includes only those who speak a seemingly untranslatable language or recognize obscure and unspoken passwords.’
    • ‘From the looks of it, German, Yiddish, Japanese, and Sanskrit seem to be particularly fruitful sources of untranslatable words.’
    • ‘There is an untranslatable language of violence that articulates the laws of the forest and the frontier.’
    • ‘My vote for the most untranslatable word would go to nyakaa, a Bengali word that could mean coy, or teasing, or bashful, or suggests fake niceness or phoney innocence.’
    • ‘A further consequence of this view is that the idea of an untranslatable language - an idea often found in association with the thesis of conceptual relativism - cannot be given any coherent formulation.’
    • ‘I was most pleased, though, to learn of the untranslatable Greek verb phthano, meaning, according to Wilson, ‘I do something before someone else realises that I'm doing it’.’
    • ‘Whether or not you accept Robert Frost's assertion that poetry is that part of language which is untranslatable, the point is that this is surely counter-productive.’
    • ‘A distinction was early made between readily traceable sabotage, blowing objects up with a bang, and undetectable sabotage - insaississable was the almost untranslatable French word for it.’
    • ‘This, of course, makes Pagolak untranslatable - indeed, any version of a Pagolak sentence in a foreign language will conceal rather than reveal the original's meaning.’