Untranslatable words / tõlkimatuid sõnu

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Linguaphile
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Untranslatable words / tõlkimatuid sõnu

Postby Linguaphile » 2016-12-21, 16:51

Do you know of Estonian words, which have no direct English translation (at least not a translation that is an English word rather than a longer phrase)? I thought this might be an interesting topic. A few I know of are:

Viitsima = to feel like doing something ('ma ei viitsi' = I don't feel like it, I can't be bothered)
Lang = relationship between a person's father and mother-in-law, or between the person's mother and father-in law
Nohu = excess mucous in the nose
Leilitama = to throw water on heated stones to make steam

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Re: Untranslatable words / tõlkimatuid sõnu

Postby ainurakne » 2016-12-22, 10:32

Linguaphile wrote:Nohu = excess mucous in the nose
Aren't you describing tatt? Nohu is more like an illness or health condition ~ inflammation of nasal mucous membrane. Also, the rhinoviral infection or common cold is often referred to just as nohu.

I think I have never used nor heard anyone using the word leilitama. Usually only leili viskama and leili võtma. Also, visiting the "steam/hot"-room is mostly referred to as laval käima instead of leiliruumis käima.
Nevertheless, I think leilitama is more synonymous to leili võtma than to leili viskama, so it's more like 'baking oneself in the hot steam of sauna' instead of 'throwing the water on stones to make steam'.


I would propose the following word (although I'm afraid I'm not able to explain it in English very well):

tubli - a positive adjective that is usually used for living beings: resultative/skillful(/at an expected level) in one's field or actions because of one's hard work and efforts.
When used as a praise word, it could be translated as Good job!, Well done!, Way to go!, Good for you!, etc...
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Re: Untranslatable words / tõlkimatuid sõnu

Postby Linguaphile » 2016-12-22, 17:00

ainurakne wrote:
Linguaphile wrote:Nohu = excess mucous in the nose
Aren't you describing tatt? Nohu is more like an illness or health condition ~ inflammation of nasal mucous membrane. Also, the rhinoviral infection or common cold is often referred to just as nohu.

I wasn't sure how to write the translation for nohu, but tatt does have a translation: snot. Other than maybe rhinitis we don't have a direct equivalent for nohu, since it can be used for the common cold but also for seasonal allergies and for "the sniffles" (especially the kind that persists and won't go away, I think). In part I am judging this by the fact that my Estonian friends often have nohu for weeks on end in winter while my English speaking friends who get "colds" are usually better in a week, sometimes "my cold is gone, but I still have the sniffles and a little cough". Meanwhile the nohu-sufferers may be feeling a bit better but they still have nohu. Then they get the same nohu in spring or summer while English-speakers have allergies. So, other than the aforementioned rhinitis (which outside the medical community is used far less often than nohu) I think there's not really a true equivalent word.

ainurakne wrote:I think I have never used nor heard anyone using the word leilitama. Usually only leili viskama and leili võtma. Also, visiting the "steam/hot"-room is mostly referred to as laval käima instead of leiliruumis käima.
Nevertheless, I think leilitama is more synonymous to leili võtma than to leili viskama, so it's more like 'baking oneself in the hot steam of sauna' instead of 'throwing the water on stones to make steam'.

At first I was going to put leil instead of leilitama. You can translate leil as "steam" or "vapor," but that's aur, too. Leil is a specific type of steam and English has no such distinction. I looked it up in Saagpaak's dictionary to see how he translated it before posting ("steam in a bathhouse, sauna steam or vapour") and that's where I cam across leilitama which, like you, I have never used or heard anyone using. But Saagpaak entry just says "leilitama vt. leili viskama". I should have just stuck with leil instead of posting a less-familiar one.

ainurakne wrote:I would propose the following word (although I'm afraid I'm not able to explain it in English very well):
tubli - a positive adjective that is usually used for living beings: resultative/skillful(/at an expected level) in one's field or actions because of one's hard work and efforts.

Wow! I did not know that meaning. I've heard it used as a praise word, but I just assumed it was slang and originally had some other, unrelated meaning (kind of like lahe being used the way we say "cool!" in English). I didn't realize that this was actually the literal meaning of tubli as well. Just checked a few dictionaries, they have "diligent, proficient, mettlesome, efficient". Honestly, I've probably mis-used this word sometimes, thinking it was more synonymous with suurepärane than it is; I didn't realize the meaning was that specific to work and effort, and I've probably called some things tubli when they were actually suurepärane.

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Re: Untranslatable words / tõlkimatuid sõnu

Postby Naava » 2016-12-22, 18:51

Linguaphile wrote:Lang = relationship between a person's father and mother-in-law, or between the person's mother and father-in law

This was an interesting word! Do you know where I could find more relationship terms in Estonian?

Also, what is the difference between the sniffles and the common cold? I've always thought it's the same thing!

(Btw in Finnish löylyttää means 'to beat up someone', and for a few seconds I was very suspicious of that leilitama. :lol:)

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Re: Untranslatable words / tõlkimatuid sõnu

Postby ainurakne » 2016-12-22, 21:16

Linguaphile wrote:I wasn't sure how to write the translation for nohu, ... I think there's not really a true equivalent word.
Indeed, I have never known what to say when speaking about nohu in English. :roll:
I'm also one of those sufferers of especially long nohu. At least I was in my childhood.

Linguaphile wrote:You can translate leil as "steam" or "vapor," but that's aur, too. Leil is a specific type of steam and English has no such distinction.
I think the meaning of leil was once along the lines of spirit or soul, so it is indeed a very special kind of steam.

Linguaphile wrote:I've heard it used as a praise word, but I just assumed it was slang and originally had some other, unrelated meaning (kind of like lahe being used the way we say "cool!" in English).
I think the slang-ish meaning of tubli is something like large, great, robust, etc...

By the way, do you know how to actually translate lahe into English literally?

Naava wrote:Do you know where I could find more relationship terms in Estonian?
There is a list in Wikipedia. Seems to be quite comprehensive at first glance (at least I didn't knew some of them either). :blush:
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Re: Untranslatable words / tõlkimatuid sõnu

Postby Naava » 2016-12-22, 21:30

ainurakne wrote:
Naava wrote:Do you know where I could find more relationship terms in Estonian?
There is a list in Wikipedia. Seems to be quite comprehensive at first glance (at least I didn't knew some of them either). :blush:

Oh, thanks! Looks very good indeed. :D Could you tell me which words were new to you / are not so common anymore?

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Re: Untranslatable words / tõlkimatuid sõnu

Postby ainurakne » 2016-12-23, 20:19

I hadn't heard õved (which seems to be quite new) and kõuk before. I think lell and sõtse are not used very often anymore (except by older people) - tädi and onu seem to be more common for people from both sides. And nääl, käli, küdi, nadu, langud and kälis are words that I have heard very rarely and can't remember which is which.
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Re: Untranslatable words / tõlkimatuid sõnu

Postby Linguaphile » 2016-12-24, 2:17

ainurakne wrote:By the way, do you know how to actually translate lahe into English literally?

"Airy" or "roomy," I think, but because it has so many definitions, also "refreshing", "free", "calm," "loose," "comfortable" and so on... depending on which definition is being used.

ainurakne wrote:I think lell and sõtse are not used very often anymore (except by older people) - tädi and onu seem to be more common for people from both sides.

Have you ever heard lell used for "doll" in Estonian? I can't even remember where now, but I'm certain I've learned that from somewhere as a synonym for nukk, except that it's not in the dictionary that way. So now I'm wondering if lell really is sometimes used for "doll" (in children's language or something like that, maybe?) or maybe I'm just losing my mind? :?

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Re: Untranslatable words / tõlkimatuid sõnu

Postby ainurakne » 2016-12-24, 8:57

Linguaphile wrote:"Airy" or "roomy," I think, but because it has so many definitions, also "refreshing", "free", "calm," "loose," "comfortable" and so on... depending on which definition is being used.
Ah, yes. the meaning of lahe can vary considerably in different situations. For some reason, I was only thinking about the opposite of tight/cramped.

Linguaphile wrote:Have you ever heard lell used for "doll" in Estonian? I can't even remember where now, but I'm certain I've learned that from somewhere as a synonym for nukk, except that it's not in the dictionary that way. So now I'm wondering if lell really is sometimes used for "doll" (in children's language or something like that, maybe?) or maybe I'm just losing my mind? :?
Maybe it's a mutation or mishearing of lelu (toy)? Other than that, I've got nothing.

By the way: Häid jõule kõigile!
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Re: Untranslatable words / tõlkimatuid sõnu

Postby ainurakne » 2018-03-23, 12:57

I have often had trouble with finding a good translation for the word küljes.

Its literal meaning is in a/the side or in one's side (inessive of külg), but it usually means something along the lines of being attached to something, to hang on something, being on something or to be a property or feature of something.

Usages in Estonian can be seen here - maybe someone can find better translations than me. :D
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Re: Untranslatable words / tõlkimatuid sõnu

Postby Linguaphile » 2018-03-23, 13:49

ainurakne wrote:I have often had trouble with finding a good translation for the word küljes.

Its literal meaning is in a/the side or in one's side (inessive of külg), but it usually means something along the lines of being attached to something, to hang on something, being on something or to be a property or feature of something.

Usages in Estonian can be seen here - maybe someone can find better translations than me. :D

I don't think there can be "one" translation that always works for this word. "In one's side," "on," "attached," "stuck to," "fastened to," "has," "keeps"....? I'll give a few of the EKSS examples a try:

Vanal pintsakul ei ole enam nööpe küljes. = The old jacket doesn't have buttons anymore.
Puudel püsisid kaua lehed küljes. = The trees kept their leaves for a long time.
Põõsal on valged marjad küljes. = There are white berries on the bush.
Kleidil oli higihais küljes. = The smell of sweat clung to the dress.
Tootel on paar defekti küljes. = The product has a couple of defects.
Koer oli kepil hammastega küljes kinni. = The dog had the stick tight in his teeth.
Ülikond rippus seinal konksu küljes. = The suit hung from the hook on the wall.
Kontide küljes oli veel veidi liha. = There was still a little meat on the bones.
Majade küljes märkasin nikerdusi. = I noticed carvings in the side of the house.
Ta rippus kramplikult elu küljes ja ei tahtnud surra. = He clung to life and didn't want to die.
Liiklus oli väga tihe – auto auto küljes kinni. = Traffic was very heavy - cars were bumper to bumper (but to translate it literally I'd say "cars were stuck to each other").

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Re: Untranslatable words / tõlkimatuid sõnu

Postby Linguaphile » 2018-03-23, 13:53

ainurakne wrote:
Linguaphile wrote:Have you ever heard lell used for "doll" in Estonian? I can't even remember where now, but I'm certain I've learned that from somewhere as a synonym for nukk, except that it's not in the dictionary that way. So now I'm wondering if lell really is sometimes used for "doll" (in children's language or something like that, maybe?) or maybe I'm just losing my mind? :?
Maybe it's a mutation or mishearing of lelu (toy)? Other than that, I've got nothing.
I'd forgotten that I'd even posted this question, but I thought I'd report back that I found out that lell for "doll" is only used in southern dialects around Hargla and is probably influenced by Latvian, where lelle means "doll." It is listed in the Väike murdesõnastik that way too (for Hargla and Leivu).

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Re: Untranslatable words / tõlkimatuid sõnu

Postby ainurakne » 2018-03-23, 15:49

Linguaphile wrote:I'd forgotten that I'd even posted this question, but I thought I'd report back that I found out that lell for "doll" is only used in southern dialects around Hargla and is probably influenced by Latvian, where lelle means "doll." It is listed in the Väike murdesõnastik that way too (for Hargla and Leivu).
I see. That's interesting to know.

Linguaphile wrote:Vanal pintsakul ei ole enam nööpe küljes. = The old jacket doesn't have buttons anymore.
Puudel püsisid kaua lehed küljes. = The trees kept their leaves for a long time.
Põõsal on valged marjad küljes. = There are white berries on the bush.
Kleidil oli higihais küljes. = The smell of sweat clung to the dress.
Tootel on paar defekti küljes. = The product has a couple of defects.
Koer oli kepil hammastega küljes kinni. = The dog had the stick tight in his teeth.
Ülikond rippus seinal konksu küljes. = The suit hung from the hook on the wall.
Kontide küljes oli veel veidi liha. = There was still a little meat on the bones.
Majade küljes märkasin nikerdusi. = I noticed carvings in the side of the house.
Ta rippus kramplikult elu küljes ja ei tahtnud surra. = He clung to life and didn't want to die.
Liiklus oli väga tihe – auto auto küljes kinni. = Traffic was very heavy - cars were bumper to bumper (but to translate it literally I'd say "cars were stuck to each other").
Not to mention that there are also illative (külge) and elative (küljest) forms of the word. :twisted:

(panin, ühedasin, kinnitasin, hüppasin külge; võtsin, tõmbasin, rebisin küljest; etc...)

But seriously, thank you!
I wouldn't have thought up even half of those sentences. And it's nice to occasionally see beautiful varied English (unlike those simple sentences that I usually clump together).
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Re: Untranslatable words / tõlkimatuid sõnu

Postby Linguaphile » 2018-03-23, 15:57

ainurakne wrote:
Linguaphile wrote:I'd forgotten that I'd even posted this question, but I thought I'd report back that I found out that lell for "doll" is only used in southern dialects around Hargla and is probably influenced by Latvian, where lelle means "doll." It is listed in the Väike murdesõnastik that way too (for Hargla and Leivu).
I see. That's interesting to know.

Linguaphile wrote:Vanal pintsakul ei ole enam nööpe küljes. = The old jacket doesn't have buttons anymore.
Puudel püsisid kaua lehed küljes. = The trees kept their leaves for a long time.
Põõsal on valged marjad küljes. = There are white berries on the bush.
Kleidil oli higihais küljes. = The smell of sweat clung to the dress.
Tootel on paar defekti küljes. = The product has a couple of defects.
Koer oli kepil hammastega küljes kinni. = The dog had the stick tight in his teeth.
Ülikond rippus seinal konksu küljes. = The suit hung from the hook on the wall.
Kontide küljes oli veel veidi liha. = There was still a little meat on the bones.
Majade küljes märkasin nikerdusi. = I noticed carvings in the side of the house.
Ta rippus kramplikult elu küljes ja ei tahtnud surra. = He clung to life and didn't want to die.
Liiklus oli väga tihe – auto auto küljes kinni. = Traffic was very heavy - cars were bumper to bumper (but to translate it literally I'd say "cars were stuck to each other").
Not to mention that there are also illative (külge) and elative (küljest) forms of the word. :twisted:

(panin, ühedasin, kinnitasin, hüppasin külge; võtsin, tõmbasin, rebisin küljest; etc...)

But seriously, thank you!
I wouldn't have thought up even half of those sentences. And it's nice to occasionally see beautiful varied English (unlike those simple sentences that I usually clump together).

:rotfl: I didn't think them up either! They are the ones from EKSS. I just translated them.

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Re: Untranslatable words / tõlkimatuid sõnu

Postby ainurakne » 2018-03-23, 16:31

Linguaphile wrote: :rotfl: I didn't think them up either! They are the ones from EKSS. I just translated them.
No-no. I meant those English translations. I wouldn't have been able to think up even half of those translations.
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Re: Untranslatable words / tõlkimatuid sõnu

Postby Linguaphile » 2018-03-23, 17:39

ainurakne wrote:
Linguaphile wrote: :rotfl: I didn't think them up either! They are the ones from EKSS. I just translated them.
No-no. I meant those English translations. I wouldn't have been able to think up even half of those translations.

Got it. Well, I never would have come up with some of those Estonian sentences if you'd given me the English ones, either. Especially the really idiomatic ones like auto auto küljes kinni. I can understand it, but it would never occur to me produce it myself. :D

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Re: Untranslatable words / tõlkimatuid sõnu

Postby linguoboy » 2018-03-23, 19:17

Linguaphile wrote:Viitsima = to feel like doing something

(en) "fancy"
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Re: Untranslatable words / tõlkimatuid sõnu

Postby Linguaphile » 2018-03-23, 20:20

linguoboy wrote:
Linguaphile wrote:Viitsima = to feel like doing something

(en) "fancy"

In some contexts, but only some. It's not a true match. The British usage has more to do with what a person likes or prefers, the Estonian word has more to do with being willing to take the trouble to do something. Sometimes it's translated as "to bother to" or "to care to". "Fancy" does work sometimes too. But it depends on the context as well as on whether the sentence is affirmative or negative, so there isn't a real equivalent with the same meaning.
Elus on palju võimalusi, kui viitsid neid näha = there are many possibilities in life, if you look for them ("viitsi" to see them)
Ta ei viitsi kuulata = he doesn't bother to listen (he doesn't "viitsi" to listen)
Täna ma ei viitsi jalutada = today I don't feel like going for a walk (don't "viitsi" walking)
Kes viitsib aidata? = who can be bothered to help out? (who "viitsib" to help)
Ta viitsib tööd teha = he feels like doing work (he "viitsib" to do work)
Kindlasti viitsime! = of course we want to! (of course we "viitsime")

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Re: Untranslatable words / tõlkimatuid sõnu

Postby linguoboy » 2018-03-23, 20:33

Linguaphile wrote:In some contexts, but only some. It's not a true match.

That is true of literally every single verb.
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Re: Untranslatable words / tõlkimatuid sõnu

Postby Linguaphile » 2018-03-23, 21:07

linguoboy wrote:
Linguaphile wrote:In some contexts, but only some. It's not a true match.

That is true of literally every single verb.

Ma arvan endiselt, et sõna viitsima on keerulisem tõlkida. Aga ma ei viitsi sinuga vaielda. :D
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