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Actually, general-purpose sections of Words hardest to translate must be moved here, leaving there only parts relevant to the list in question. (Unsigned comment from User:Mikkalai)

I agree. And I think the "Words hardest to translate" article should be deleted, since apart from the more general sections, it's only two completely subjective lists. Unencyclopedic, in my opinion. --BluePlatypus 11:55, 16 December 2005 (UTC)
Perhaps all of this should move to untranslatability, creating a part within that for common untranslatable words, such as the ones listed on this page - thus eliminating the subjective nature of the ranking, but leaving the informative examples. Robef
merge per Robef --Kerowyn 22:56, 16 February 2006 (UTC)
Where did the list of words hardest to translate gone? I cannot find such list in the current version of this article! :-( Netrat_msk (talk) 13:49, 6 April 2008 (UTC)
Which is especially stupid, because the article is now mostly about the fact that languages have differences, as is pointed out right away in Translation. This article is dumb. It shouldn't be about things that are "hard" to translate, or "can't be translated exactly," or about different languages having different idioms. It should be about things that can't be translated. :-( indeed. (talk) 19:49, 10 October 2009 (UTC)

Structure of this articleEdit

The name of this article is not helpful in making and keeping it tidy, since "untranslatability" is a matter of gradation, and there is no definable boundary between "hard to translate" and "impossible to translate", something that might be pointed out in the opening paragraphs.

I think that the article should start with an overview (with examples) of the kinds of problems before going into the possible solutions. There are many more kinds of problems than just a lacuna, as shown in later examples. "Translating poetry" and "Translating puns" could be two subsections.

I don't understand the section heading "Theory". This does not seem more theoretical than any of the rest. If there is any "theoretical" section, it should deal with the theory of what can be considered a translation, which could be a concise rendering of Translation#Measuring success in translation. This would be useful as a reference for the merits of various translation devices.

Then the ground has been laid for a section discussing solutions, approaches, devices, tricks. This should also be illustrated with examples; the Hofstadter book has plenty of examples. I don't think we need a separate section on Specific examples. LambiamTalk 22:31, 23 April 2006 (UTC)

The claim that "poppycock" is particularly untranslatable is balderdash.Edit

While this statement is "cute", it doesn't inform the reader, especially non-native English speakers. Someone please add words commonly used as a translation for poppycock or mention that it is translated as "nonesense" or for that matter cannot be translated. VarunRajendran

  • What is "poppycock" supposed to mean? (please explain for an American English speaker)
  • What does "balderdash" mean? I can only infer that it is synonymous with poppycock, correct?
  • Why is "poppycock" said to be untranslatable?
  • In your opinion, why is it *not* untranslatable?

-- )Patrick 22:50, 11 July 2006 (UTC)(

  • Isn't poppycock also a food similar to caramel corn? I see it regularly at delis. Eccomi 00:08, 9 December 2006 (UTC)
I'm not the same person, but I can answer some of those questions.
1.) Poppycock is what I would translate as "ridiculous nonsense". It's a word you use to describe something that you think is so patently absurd that you refuse to believe it.
2.)Balderdash has roughly the same meaning as poppycock, but in my opinion, it has a slightly rougher, more forceful sound. Contextually speaking: That's balderdash! is what you would say if someone says something so absurd that you feel it's insulting your intelligence; That's poppycock! has the connotation more of you thinking they are silly for believing it, a more dissmissively derisive feel. They both have the same basic meaning, and I'm sure somebody somewhere uses them completely interchangeably, but to me, "poppycock", with it's sillier sound, dismisses something with the wave of a hand; "balderdash", with it's plethora of harsher consonants, smacks it over the head with a shovel. Both words of course can be used as an exclamation, though personally I hear "poppycock!" as an exclamation more often.
3.)I have no idea why anyone would think it was "untranslateable". What poppycock! :P If I had to translate it into a language which had no "direct" equivalent that covers the silly sound of "Poppycock!", I would simply use "Ridiculous!" (I don't think you could find a single human language that has no equivalent word for "ridiculous", honestly). If I had to translate "That's pure poppycock" with no other equivalent, I would use "That is pure nonsense". I think it's only the feel of the word that someone thinks can't be carried over. But you know, you could probably introduce a similarly silly-sounding, pompous-sounding neologism if the silliness itself was all that important. But really, it just means "complete and utter nonsense", which should be fairly easy to translate into pretty much any language imaginable.
By the way, Eccomi, yes, there is also a carmel corn-like snack food under the name Poppycock. I've had it before; as I recall, it's made with crushed hunks of popcorn with things like chocolate and carmel all over it. I'm pretty sure it's called "Poppycock" as a pun, because it includes POPcorn. ;) And the name is catchy... Runa27 17:55, 19 March 2007 (UTC)


Not sure if this should count or not, because the word itself is easy to translate, i.e. a home trailer that is twice as wide as a normal home trailer. However, unless you are American living in particular areas, you'll never be able to explain the strange paradoxical pride-vs-shame "king amongst beggars" connotations that go along with it.

I hear you. If you have sources reliable for wikipedia about the topic, "Double-wide" might be an interesting article. `'mikkanarxi 02:21, 16 December 2006 (UTC)


The czech word "Litost" which has been described in Milan Kundera's The Book of Laughter and Forgetting should be considered too.

Apparently no one has any objections, so go ahead and add the word to the article. You didn't explain what this word means, so this information by itself does not help much. (Patrick 22:46, 11 July 2006 (UTC))

Lousy ListEdit

If we have to moderate the Today list with so many caveats, why don't we just delete it? It's not very useful.

I agree --Grstain 12:37, 10 July 2006 (UTC)

Title of the articleEdit

I think this article should be called, "untranslability into english", as it doesn't represent anyh other kind of untranslability between other pairs of languages, just whatever -> english.

I think that the problem arises from the examples and the addition of the Today list (see previous comment). By eliminating these, and concentrating "untranslatability", the article will recover its focus. Other articles, "Untranslatibility into English", "... into French", "... into German", etc. could be created if someone so desired. --Grstain 12:37, 10 July 2006 (UTC)
The examples in the Today list, as well as the other examples in the article are examples of "untranslatability" which obviously occur in translation to English; please bear in mind that the article is written in English! By definition, therefore, examples must also be in English, the "Today List" is no exception, "lousy" or not. In addition, many examples of translation into English illustrate important translation concepts that also apply to translations between languages other than English. If you would like to make the article more universal, you may add examples of translation between other languages, but keep in mind that you must provide an explanation in English, and even if you do so, your example(s) would not have the same impact. To make the article more universal, I would suggest adding examples that apply to different dialects of English such as British English, Australian English, Canadian English, etc., and possibly even examples of translation difficulties between them. -- (Patrick 22:44, 11 July 2006 (UTC))

Well, the use of "da kine" in Hawaian English seems to be untranslatable, or multiply translateable; And for Americans, the many meanings of the British "Bob's yer uncle!" are mystifying. Rhinoracer 12:21, 1 September 2006 (UTC)


I've added a reference to Asterix in this section, and will follow up with specific examples. Could anyone else think of good examples of pun translation/substitution?

I've had particular problems with this very conundrum while translating a French detective novel written in slang!Rhinoracer 14:51, 18 July 2006 (UTC)

Added section on palindromes. Rhinoracer 14:05, 21 July 2006 (UTC)

"X is to me" in TurkishEdit

To my knowledge "I have X" is expressed by "Xim var" which would be translated as "my X exists". Am I wrong here or is this a mistranslation in the article?

you are absolutely right. "X'im var" is the translation for "I have X" (talk) 11:59, 10 September 2010 (UTC)

What about Davka?Edit

I would have thought that Hebrew word davka is up there among the most difficult words to translate.

Template removedEdit

I've removed the templte castigating this article for innapropriate prose style. Rhinoracer 10:13, 2 September 2006 (UTC)


The one thing that this articul got wriht was that the translations depend on skill--but translators and linguists are utter dolts who are tools of the thousand-year-old corruption of English by the Roman, Norman, Francan, and Britan scum, who are not and never were Brets, so they hav no clue how to spæk or write English. I'v been banned from many boards because I wit too much and used it against their work and feelings, that I could take the world down in its delusions, the administrators and users on here and elsewhere a'being liars, libellers, and truth-haters who framed me for trian to wrihten their twisted understanding of the world. They bannd me because they are part of the deluded world, and they couldn't ken what I could because I reject all of their beliefs and had to make it knowen that they are wrong. Many other pages should still have my "disputed" tag, but the shysters-users coverd them up because they couldn't tell. I will take down the world for all of this.

Ilunga = Patsy/Rube; kirjoittaa = to writian, kirjoitella = to writellan; mones\quotus\wievielte\hoeveelste = whittof/whichof; io fui = I was, io sono stato = I have been; traktori vetää, ajomies vedättää, urakoitsija vedätyttää ja firma vedätätyttää = tractor pulls, driver pulls that, contractor such pulls yae firm so-such pulls; poshe'loste = tawdriness; estar = weran, ser = benan; fthano = I sneak/steal; doch = yet, eben = even/mere/riht/straiht, mal = (a meal/spell) nonse; zài = stand; Shlimazl = Seap; naa = eh; al-tahmâm = the []ach[e]/lack/alack; gezellig\hyggelig\gemütlich\heymish\mysig = swelly/cozily/chummily/nicely ("nice" a fraudulent Latinate word however; zel = sal = salle = st[e]all); saudade\kaiho = longdom/wistdom; pochemuchca = Whereforock/Whaddock; klloshar/clochard = bum/bellhard; Bob's your uncle = bingo/yah/jus; davca = only/notwithstanding/despite

By the way, un- means de- and not non- or in-, dolts.

-lysdexia 09:38, 5 September 2006 (UTC)

Please keep a cool temper, lysdexia. I wonder if you're putting us on? However, continuing in the above vein is not helpful, and I doubt your 'disputed' template is merited. However, let's leave it up for the moment, and we shall see what the consensus is. Rhinoracer 13:05, 5 September 2006 (UTC)

What good is a cool temper when everyone in power abuses me? That damned admin kepd my block on for almost a year, and the en-wikilist admin bannd me from the list because I told the truth about what wrong the other users and admin did, and it was more important for them to keep the standard lige (Yes--lige, not "lie") than to be corrected which would go against what the whole world believes and reports. What they call "trolling" is truthful and open editing. Rdsmith4 calls my many corrections of factual mistakes in the science and language pages "trolling and disruption" and no admins give a damn that my block was never takene off for months and months so that the pages were left to rot. And either the author of the help page on how to appeal a block was a liar, or the admin of that wikilist was (some she), because she told me that that list was not the place for me to report the block.
Anyway, "exists at me" -> "bodes at me". Those translators should stick to English, not yet more Latin crappa (chaffe.. or is that chafts?). -lysdexia 11:10, 6 September 2006 (UTC)

In other words, you admit to being a sockpuppet for a banned troll?

Comment - If you had the manners to read his response you would see that he does nothing of the kind. 19:53, 22 December 2006 (UTC)
Reply to comment - He does indeed. And I find your chiding me for my manners highly ironic Rhinoracer 12:03, 23 December 2006 (UTC)
As I read the above he says he has been called a troll - but refutes it - I am not privy to other infomation that could show that he/she was or was not a troll -based on the paragraph above. You may know better but twisting what he has said to interpret as a confession is inpolite. 19:50, 23 December 2006 (UTC)

Your English is idiolectic and untrustworthy. I am removing the 'disputed' template. You haven't disputed any of the asserted facts in the article. I am a professional translator, by the way, and I do not appreciate your blanket aspersions against me and my colleagues-- particularly as they come from one whose grasp of language is, to put it charitably, weak. Rhinoracer 17:03, 6 September 2006 (UTC)

Comment - You use the language of the courts and no nothing of truth. How can you describe someone as 'untrustworthy' based on a paragraph. 19:53, 22 December 2006 (UTC)
Reply to comment - Please do not twist my words. I said his English was 'untrustworthy', not he himself. Rhinoracer 12:03, 23 December 2006 (UTC)
Doesn't that amount to the same thing - an attack on his integrity? (sorry to waste your time.) 19:50, 23 December 2006 (UTC)
In other words, you are another libeller. I hav no clue what a sockpuppet is, and I never troll, nor can anyone troll and correct at the same time. All of my translations dispute the "untranslatability" [sic sic: both at the "un-" and the "-ata-" forms] of yeir examples. My grasp of language is far broader and greater than yours, and your kind regularly makes claims that you can't and win't prove whilst a'making plenty of mistakes along the way to disprove any of your claim to understanding of the subject--as yours is that of the popular and vulgar (rowdy--see, translators can't even translat "vulgar" into English, so they have to stick with Latin) brand, you have no choosing but to stick with the defectulent speech that you cannot tell wriht from wrong within. -lysdexia 09:45, 7 September 2006 (UTC)

First of all, the article makes no claims of untranslatability-- it merely reproduces a list from elsewhere. The existence of this list is not in dispute.

Second-- you have either invented or taken from obscure or obsolete dialects most of your proposed translations. They are neither Standard nor colloquial English.

Fourth-- most of the real English words you propose are either ill-suited, or unusable in evry sense of the word being translated.

Fifth-- your claim that "un" is not acceptable as a negator is untrue. Which means, by the way, "not true".

Sixth-- you are rude and insulting. Please cease. Rhinoracer 11:10, 7 September 2006 (UTC)

Comment - you accused the above poster of being 'a sockpuppet of a band troll', then describe his comments a untrustworthy based on your percieved correct grammar.. Who here is insulting and who is being insulted? 19:53, 22 December 2006 (UTC)
Reply to comment - Again, it is his English which is untrustworthy. The discussion does not address grammar, but vocabulary and usage. As for who is the insulting party, I am not the one calling people dolts and liars.

I have no interest whatsoever in a flame war, or indeed in discussing this matter. This man is a language crank. I am sorry if that appears insulting, but a cursory glance at his proposals or at any of his linguistic revisions of articles throughout Wikipedia confirm this. Cranks are causing enormous damage to thousands of articles. To my mind, they are a far greater threat to the Wikipedia project than vandals.They should be confronted firmly. Rhinoracer 12:12, 23 December 2006 (UTC)

1. How could it make no claims whether or not it's a secondary source?
2. From Standard English:

Standard English is a controversial term used to denote a form of written and spoken English that is thought to be normative for educated users. There are no set rules or vocabulary for "Standard English" because, unlike languages such as French, Spanish or Dutch, English does not have a governing body (see Académie française, Real Academia Española, Dutch Language Union) to establish usage.

Yes, I'm the only person in the world who uses this speech, which happend after early 2006 when I shutd myself from the computer and all outward communication--but still had the TV on--for several months, that after some research into the language pages, dictionary-diving for English and Latin ètumolòjies, and some unique success with perfect translations after many needed rescues from dead bits of words. Over those months I went mead (mæd) as I heard how often some English-speaker said some foreign word or name wrong, as well as used some common English words wrong, and overall spoke gibberish and nonsense with all the wrong parts of speech we inheritd, and I had no way to tell them off. So I plan to write ae emmail with several declarations of war against all nations, that covers many subjects also outside of speech.
3. most -> mest; You, like everyone else, do not distinguish a superlativ from a collectiv. (This is one of my meadly points.) You must give specifics of what's wrong with those.
4. Wrong, "untrue" does not mean "not true"; it means "away truth". "not true" means, well, "neither away nor again truth", as in it hasn't to do with truth. The opposite of untrue is not true, but antrue--devrai and revrai, in your Francish. "not true" may be otherwise "nottrue" or "truefree"--nonvrai ou sansvrai.
5. You calld me a troll.
-lysdexia 19:20, 8 September 2006 (UTC)

From reading the above, I fear it's worse, and sadder, than your being a troll. However, no harm done so long as you keep your idosyncratic revisionism of the English language off the main page. Rhinoracer 09:44, 9 September 2006 (UTC)

If you don't answer the above--any of it, as you can't--I'll consider you the troll who harms pages with your misinformation. I'll put the tag back up where it belongs. By the way, I can't "being" anything. -lysdexia 11:15, 9 September 2006 (UTC)

I have removed your unjustified 'disputed' template. You have not given a reason for it. Please cease your crank attacks, which go beyond trolling to vandalism. Rhinoracer 19:44, 9 September 2006 (UTC)

None of the corrections are vandalism. All of my translations are the reason for the template. You do not understand the subject and cannot explain your criticisms of my revision, so you stop. -lysdexia 14:33, 12 September 2006 (UTC)

Your translations do not hold up under scrutiny. I'm removing the template until such time as you can justify it. Rhinoracer 14:50, 12 September 2006 (UTC)

You cannot support any of your claims against them, so they are the justification. You did not present a "consensus" by your first reply. The text stays wrong, and Wikipedia:Accuracy dispute still applies. You are a liar. -lysdexia 08:28, 19 September 2006 (UTC)

I am not a he, Rhinoracer the innomerate. And you still hav no support for your criticism of my vocabulary. I could find three mistakes in the world's grammar for every one that you believe is my mistake. The world's understanding is a sham. -lysdexia 5:04, 26 December 2006 (UTC)

Nonsensical 'Today Translations' listEdit

Why on earth is this list still doing the rounds? Does Wikipedia aspire to be a serious scholarly resource or not? Please read this debunking of that list by someone who knows what they are talking about. 12:34, 7 September 2006 (UTC)

That debunking is rather weak, to my mind...but if you feelstrongly about the matter, Be Bold and delete the whole mess. Rhinoracer 19:53, 11 September 2006 (UTC)

I have. — Grstain | Talk 16:23, 19 December 2006 (UTC)

I added another sentence about the german word "doch", but I'm not 100% sure if the translation is the best. You get the meaning, but maybe someone could take a look and make a better one, if needed.

Also a list of "unique" words in different lenguages would be fun, but it should be on a seperate place to keep things clean.


It would be interesting to have a list of examples from several different languages at the end of the article.

Also, how do ambiguous translations (such as "to like" and "to love" both becoming "aimer" in French) fit into this? While not untranslatable, surely a fusion of words through translation, for lack of common alternatives (in the above example, of course, we could cite) is related?

Cousin in DutchEdit

"[..] both a son of a sibling and a son of an uncle are called neef" is correct, but "[..] it does not have different terms for nephew and cousin" is not: the words kozijn for cousin and oomzegger for nephew can be used. Also, the article states that this is a translation problem with Romance languages, but Dutch is a Germanic language.

I did not know about kozijn, but I came independently to the same conclusion regarding oomzegger, but both kozijn and oomzegger are unusual and I do not think you will hear it in the North of the Netherlands. (I dunno about Belgium and South Netherlands)Andries (talk) 00:53, 31 December 2008 (UTC)


I've added the "unreferenced" tag to this article. Right now the article has page after page of unreferenced material, much of which looks downright silly to trained linguists, and large swaths which are probably original research.

I have added a pair of citations/references to the poetry/puns section. The Bearded One (talk) 02:58, 8 July 2010 (UTC)

Now, I'm not one of those wikipedians who thinks unreferenced material or original research should be summarily deleted. In fact, I lament that wikipedia has moved in that direction as of late. However, I have some hopes for this article that I think may improve it overall.

  • Change the article name

"Untranslatability" is a misleading name at best. Most linguists will agree that there is no such thing, and the article itself doesn't talk about things that are "untranslatable". This is especially bad because things like "untranslatable phrases" and "words hardest to translate" redirect here. I'd prefer to see the article named something like "difficulties in translation", rather than the current article which implies "impossibilities in translation".

  • Discuss and/or reference the "formal completeness of language"

e.g., the idea that all concepts and ideas can be discussed or represented in any language, although it may take more or longer words to do it in one language than in another. The article currently implies that some texts are "untranslatable", but then waffles on the idea, saying that nothing is "exclusively untranslatable," that it depends on the translator's abilities and the "nature" of the term. Let's drop these implications and just go with the idea that anything can be translated, it's just that some things are more difficult than others.

  • Discuss problems before solutions

Right now, the first section of this article is "Translation procedures," a section detailing various solutions to problems of translation. However, it seems wholly out of place, since no discussion at all takes place on the problems themselves--what makes certain things difficult to translate, and under what circumstances? The listed concepts will make more sense after such a discussion. Sections like "Puns" and "Objects" could easily be moved and used in this way.

  • Source the "translation procedures" section!

We need lots of sources here, especially sources that talk about them in context of translating.

  • Get rid of the "Examples" laundry list

This section, at the moment, appears to simply be a huge laundry list of unrelated, unsourced things that a particular person thinks are difficult to translate. This list could grow to a thousand times its current length, given no direction or purpose. Instead, we should pick specific, clear examples that demonstrate specific difficulties in translation. No more, no less.

Hope this helps. If I get some time, and nobody objects, I'll attempt such a clean-up on my own in the future.

--Dlugar (talk) 05:07, 19 November 2007 (UTC)

I support this proposal. - JasonAQuest (talk) 13:59, 8 August 2008 (UTC)

Untranslatable from English?Edit

This article in The Economist suggests (at the very end) that the word "accountability" is particularly difficult to translate into other languages -- or at least the Spanish, French, Russian, and Hebrew, Arabic, and Portuguese in which the author claims knowledge. --FOo (talk) 08:37, 2 April 2008 (UTC)

I am native speaker of Russian and I can assure you that there is Russian word for "accountability". "Accountability" translates to Russian as "подотчётность" (pod-ot-chyot-nost'). Netrat_msk (talk) 13:43, 6 April 2008 (UTC)
I am native speaker of Hebrew and I can assure you that there is a Hebrew word for "accountability". "Accountability" is translated into Hebrew as "אחריות" (ax-ra-yoot. Read the "x" as the Russian x). HOOTmag (talk) 20:07, 10 October 2009 (UTC)

Ebonics EnglishEdit

I believe this article should mention English word that came from African American community such as "hustle", "flow" and "groove".

The concept of "flow" was not fimiliar to most cultures before the rise of new-school hip-hop in US, thus no other language may have a proper translation for it.

The same is true for words like "sushi". Netrat_msk (talk) 13:54, 6 April 2008 (UTC)

Hustle and flow are examples of jargon. Any time a group invents or appropriates words to express something meaningful to them, that jargon is going to require explanation to people outside that group. That's not really a translation issue, because it applies even to communicating with people who speak the same langauge. -JasonAQuest (talk) 13:59, 8 August 2008 (UTC)


Perhaps it could be mentioned in the Poetry, Puns and Wordplay section that while in the English version of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets Tom Marvolo Riddle is an anagram of I am Lord Voldemort, this would obviously have to be changed in other languages. He is Tom Elvis Jedusor ("Je suis Voldemort) in French and Tom Vorlost Riddle ("Ist Lord Voldemort"). Of course it will be different in every language, but those are the only two I know.


QUOTING the article:

"Similarly, when Quebec playwright Michel Tremblay adapted Gogol's play Revizor (The Government Inspector), as Le gars de Québec, he transposed the setting from Russia to his home province."

Fine, but what has this information to do with the subject of the article, which is things that are untranslatable?

Wanderer57 (talk) 01:36, 16 August 2008 (UTC)


Good evening,

I noticed that in the "Paraphrase" section, when the author of the article mentions the word "Ilunga", he/she says that it's "a word supposedly from a language in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.". I found the use of "supposedly" a little strange, because it is referenced that "Ilunga" is a word from the Tshiluba language. So, I suggest that it should be rephrased as "a word from the Tshiluba language in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.", or just "a word from a language in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.", without the "supposedly". ----Sanscrit1234 (talk) 00:00, 26 October 2008 (UTC).

"One particular type of foreign object that poses difficulties is the proper noun. As an illustration, consider another example from Douglas Hofstadter, which he published in one of his "Metamagical Themas" columns in Scientific American. He pondered the question, Who is the first lady of Britain? Well, first ladies reside at the White House, and at the time, the woman living at 10 Downing Street was Margaret Thatcher. But a different attribute that first ladies have is that they are married to heads of government, so perhaps a better answer was Denis Thatcher, but he probably would not have relished the title".

The "First Lady of Britain" would be HM Queen Elizabeth II, as she is the Head of State. The author does rather rely on other countries using the American model of government, namely the embodiment of total executive power in the leading politician of the day, rather than the Westminster system (among others) that enshrines a separate office that serves a constitutional role that divorces state from government, the nation's figurehead. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 05:43, 3 May 2009 (UTC)

Dupont and DupondEdit

I think this example should inform that a visual character of the policemen was lost when their names were adapted. The last letter of their names indicates who they are. Dupont has a twisted moustache while Dupond has a straight moustache: T for tordue and D for droite. I really wonder which one is Thompson and which one is Thomson? -- Silwilhith (talk) 22:59, 9 August 2009 (UTC)

Are you certain that's not a back-formation, concerning the explanation? 惑乱 Wakuran (talk) 20:07, 10 March 2010 (UTC)

Translating "very" to DutchEdit

Translating "it is very probable that..." is easy. "The very idea of ... is ..." would need a clarification like "just the idea of ... is already..." ("alleen het idee al ... is ...") which is awkward, too long and not strong enough, or a shorter description that would include the German word "überhaupt" because Dutch has no proper word for that either. Joepnl (talk) 04:03, 18 November 2009 (UTC)

Hasn't "überhaupt" been loaned into Dutch, anyway? 惑乱 Wakuran (talk) 20:08, 10 March 2010 (UTC)
That depends on the definition of loaning I think. Most people know the word, but it still has the ü which is not a Dutch character. It is listed in the authoritative Van Dale dictionary, but the Dutch Language Union advises to use it sparingly and contrasts it to "Dutch alternatives". Joepnl (talk) 20:27, 10 March 2010 (UTC)

van Dale =bad dictionary,Dutch Language Union=mere unbindin politics----pl.note:i'v[[RSI]]>typin=v.v.hard4me!>contactme thruMSNpl.if unclear[sven70=alias (talk) 12:32, 19 April 2010 (UTC)

Merge from "Words Hardest to Translate"Edit

The last version of the ex-article "Words Hardest to Translate" [1] contains substantial content not adequately carried over to this article. In particular, commentators on Talk:Words hardest to translate argued for the deletion of an interesting list on the basis that it was "dangerously close to advertising". I submit that while it may have been an imperfect list, it presented materially interesting content and was cited. Its removal in favor of nothing at all has not improved the quality of Wikipedia. --Peter Farago (talk) 02:28, 8 December 2009 (UTC)

bibl]/kuran/rel.txts=ofn claimd intr-blEdit

=myth,'dbe i/articl----pl.note:i'v[[RSI]]>typin=v.v.hard4me!>contactme thruMSNpl.if unclear[sven70=alias (talk) 12:25, 19 April 2010 (UTC)

Too many examplesEdit

This article is overflowing with unnecessary examples. If left to grow, nothing will check it, as most languages have countless words that cannot be translated into another; even if we focus only on "untraslatable into English," we're still dealing with such a wide set of info that the list will grow without bound. Furthermore, as others have pointed out in the past, this article is almost entirely uncited. For all the average reader knows, these words are entirely fictional, and/or they are entirely translatable, but it's just that the editors themselves didn't know how to do the translation. Are there enough regular editors here to come to some sort of consensus about how to go about trimming this section down? It seems to me that the family section is the biggest offender...but others may have thoughts about doing more substantive re-organizing...Qwyrxian (talk) 04:17, 29 July 2010 (UTC)

The Danish, Norwegian and Swedish examples should be taken out. The explanations are poor (and "Vetter + Kusine" exists in German too). The untranslatable grandparent names for Swedish should be added instead: morfar = mothers father, mormor = mothers mother, farmor = fathers mother, farfar = fathers father (talk) 16:02, 8 August 2011 (UTC)

source/target textEdit

In the current version of the article, at Untranslatability#Compensation, we read
Compensation is a translation procedure whereby the translator solves the problem of aspects of the source text that cannot take the same form in the target language by replacing these aspects with other elements or forms in the source text.
Should the final phrase not read
...with other elements or forms in the target text? --gråb whåt you cån (talk) 23:14, 8 September 2012 (UTC)

Names in the Bible?Edit

It says names like Eve, when translated into English, make little sense in English. I think this is wrong. Even though Eve originally meant "life", it would still make sense in English (through folk etymology) as "the mother of all the living" because she is before all else. She is the Eve to the living, like how Christmas Eve is to Christmas. Also, though these aren't in this article, there are some other biblical verses that make sense in English through folk etymology: "woman" as "from man", "Babel" as "Babble", etc. (talk) 13:03, 31 January 2013 (UTC)

Aunts and Uncles in German?Edit

"In [...]German[...] there are different words for the person indicated by "mother's brother", "father's brother" and "parent's sister's husband", all of which would be uncle in English."

What word(s) are thought of here? As German I only know the one word "Onkel" for all three situations. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:51, 12 September 2013 (UTC)

I agree with the OP. There are words like "Oheim" (mother's brother) and "Muhme" (mother's sister), but they are archaic and never used in everyday speech.-- (talk) 18:15, 3 December 2013 (UTC)
Further support for removal of German from this list of such language is the German Wikipedia, which lists "Oheim" as "archaic" (veraltet). Perhaps German could be mentioned as a language where there used to be such, but it is no longer such. Cyberherbalist (talk) 19:58, 8 January 2014 (UTC)
I am also Germany and I also wondered about this. I fixed this part and mentioned that these words are not used any more. --MartinThoma (talk) 13:02, 13 September 2014 (UTC)

Multiple issuesEdit

There is a {{Multiple issues}} template containing several templates listing various areas for improving the article. Each of these is supposed to reference its own Talk page section, but up till now, has not done so, afaict. This is an attempt to remedy that. With the exception of the OR and {{Unfocused}} templates which I added, I can't mind-read what each editor's intent or justification may have been for placing the templates.

So long as there is no consensus about a resolution of a problem named in a subsection below, the corresponding hatnote in the {{Multiple issues}} template should remain on the article page. Each subsection below is intended to be completely independent, and so there's some duplication of wording. This is so that someone coming to one of the sections from a link doesn't have to look all over for an explanation. Please comment on an individual issues by appending your comment to one of the sections below (and don't forget to add four tildes after your entry to apply your signature). Mathglot (talk) 03:05, 27 March 2017 (UTC)


According to Template:Essay-like, this means that the article "is written like a personal reflection or opinion essay". (It does not mean that it's written like an "essay" in the sense of a school essay or research paper.)

Pros and cons

The article is full of unsubstantiated, personal opinion, including just about everything in the #Examples section. For specific cases, search on page for 'difficult to translate' for example. Says who? Mathglot (talk) 03:05, 27 March 2017 (UTC)


Template:Cleanup says that this article "may require cleanup to meet Wikipedia's quality standards". The template has a reason param but the user who placed the template didn't provide a reason.

Pros and cons

With no reason given, it's hard to read their mind. As it is, it's too vague. I would say, that if no editor comes along with a justification for why the "Cleanup" template should remain at the top of the page, we should delete it after a decent interval; say, three months? Mathglot (talk) 03:05, 27 March 2017 (UTC)


Template:Refimprove says that the "article needs additional citations for verification." The user who placed it did not provide a reason param, or give a talk section name.

Pros and cons

Painfully obvious why this banner is needed. This article needs to comply with verifiability like any other; at a minimum, every example needs a citation by a reliable source. Mathglot (talk) 03:05, 27 March 2017 (UTC)

Original researchEdit

Template:Original research says that the article "possibly contains original research" but doesn't explain further in the template doc, because there is extensive information about OR elsewhere. No original research is a major part of verifiability which is one of the core principles of Wikipedia. The reason param given says, "Whole article, examples and procedures, seems like OR".

Pros and cons

Almost the whole article seems like Original research. Specific examples do not have reliable sources attached, and much of it looks like it was pulled out of a hat; both the #Examples, as well as the #Translation procedures section. The talk section #References above from 2010 alludes to possible OR, and some of the comment there may be relevant to take into consideration. Mathglot (talk) 03:05, 27 March 2017 (UTC)


Template:Unclear is a redirect to Template:Confusing, and says that the article "may be confusing or unclear to readers." A reason param is available but was not used.

Pros and cons

It's unclear to me what the editor who placed this template found unclear or confusing. As it is, it's too vague. I would say, that if no editor comes along with a justification for why the "Cleanup" template should remain at the top of the page, we should delete it after a decent interval; say, three months? Mathglot (talk) 03:05, 27 March 2017 (UTC)


Template:Unfocused says that an article "may lack focus or may be about more than one topic". The reason param says that "Content in Translation procedures section would fit better at Translation or elsewhere."

Pros and cons

The whole #Translation procedures section has some good content (unfortunately unreferenced, and may also be OR, but that's already covered above) however this article isn't about Translation procedures. The content of the article should stick to material that is relevant to the article title. This material about how to translate might be welcome at the article Translation or perhaps Translation studies, or one of the articles listed at Template:Translation sidebar, but it's not relevant here. Mathglot (talk) 03:05, 27 March 2017 (UTC)

Translation proceduresEdit

Removed this section. There have been complaints about this section not having any references going back to 2007, and it still doesn't. That's long enough. Verifiability is a core concept at Wikipedia, we can't simply ignore it. Probably some good content could be written and sourced properly, and that would be fine, although it might be more appropriate as part of a different article than this one. Mathglot (talk) 01:30, 17 August 2020 (UTC)

Return to "Untranslatability" page.