14 Wonderful Words, Amharically Speaking

imageApologies in advance to my non-Amharic speaking readers, but this article reminded me of the days, waaaay back, when I used to collect Amharic words in notebooks reserved specially for that purpose.



I considered myself an Amharic word connoisseur of sorts, jotting down any new and unusual word I came across that I figured I could use to impress someone with someday.

The original article that inspired this post is titled 14 Wonderful Words With No English Equivalent.

You already know what I’ve decided to title my version.

Disclaimer: those notebooks have been buried deep in a storage unit in a remote corner of the northeast Toronto ‘burbs for many years and I don’t even think, much less dream, in Amharic any more so the interpretations below are entirely my own and do not represent the linguistic bounty of the Ethiopian people.

So, here goes. Just for fun I’ve rated myself on a translation accuracy scale of 1-5, 1 being “not even close” and 5 being “bang on”.

1. Shemomedjamo (Georgian)
You know when you’re really full, but your meal is just so delicious, you can’t stop eating it? The Georgians feel your pain. This word means, “I accidentally ate the whole thing.”

AMHARICALLY: agbesebeskut (3)

2. Pelinti (Buli, Ghana)
Your friend bites into a piece of piping hot pizza, then opens his mouth and sort of tilts his head around while making an “aaaarrrahh” noise. The Ghanaians have a word for that. More specifically, it means “to move hot food around in your mouth.”

AMHARICALLY: mabared (2)

3. Layogenic (Tagalog)
Remember in Clueless when Cher describes someone as “a full-on Monet… from far away, it’s OK, but up close it’s a big old mess”? That’s exactly what this word means.

AMHARICALLY: funga (5)

4. Rhwe (Tsonga, South Africa)
College kids, relax. There’s actually a word for “to sleep on the floor without a mat, while drunk and naked.”

AMHARICALLY: kewsinet (3)

5. Zeg (Georgian)
It means “the day after tomorrow.” Seriously, why don’t we have a word for that in English?

AMHARICALLY: tenegwedya (5)

6. Pålegg (Norweigian)
Sandwich Artists unite! The Norwegians have a non-specific descriptor for anything — ham, cheese, jam, Nutella, mustard, herring, pickles, Doritos, you name it — you might consider putting into a sandwich.

AMHARICALLY: mabaya (5)

7. Lagom (Swedish)
Maybe Goldilocks was Swedish? This slippery little word is hard to define, but means something like, “Not too much, and not too little, but juuuuust right.”


8. Tartle (Scots)
The nearly onomatopoeic word for that panicky hesitation just before you have to introduce someone whose name you can’t quite remember.

AMHARICALLY: kilet (1)

9. Koi No Yokan (Japanese)
The sense upon first meeting a person that the two of you are going to fall in love.

AMHARICALLY: fonka (2)

10. Mamihlapinatapai (Yaghan language of Tierra del Fuego)
This word captures that special look shared between two people, when both are wishing that the other would do something that they both want, but neither want to do.

AMHARICALLY: makulechlech (4)

11. Fremdschämen (German); Myötähäpeä (Finnish)
The kinder, gentler cousins of Schadenfreude, both these words mean something akin to “vicarious embarrassment.” Or, in other words, that-feeling-you-get-when-you-watch-Meet the Parents.

AMHARICALLY: wirdet (3)

12. Cafune (Brazilian Portuguese)
Leave it to the Brazilians to come up with a word for “tenderly running your fingers through your lover’s hair.”

AMHARICALLY: medebabes (-1)

13. Greng-jai (Thai)
That feeling you get when you don’t want someone to do something for you because it would be a pain for them.

AMHARICALLY: yilugnta (4)

14. Kaelling (Danish)
You know that woman who stands on her doorstep (or in line at the supermarket, or at the park, or in a restaurant) cursing at her children? The Danes know her, too.

AMHARICALLY: chirak (1)

Consider yourself impressed!

(…Ok let the corrections begin.)

3 thoughts on “14 Wonderful Words, Amharically Speaking

  1. Hahahaha! Really enjoyed this, although clearly your Amharic vocab. is a lot more developed than mine; I don’t even recognize some of these .. my fav. is “kewsinet”! And funny how I also read the article and came up with the same Amharic equivalent for Greng-jai (Thai). I thought yilugnta was just a habesha prob. but I guess it ain’t!


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