Mamihlapinatapai is a word from the Yaghan language of Tierra del Fuego, listed in The Guinness Book of World Records as the “most succinct word”, and is considered one of the hardest words to translate. It describes “a look shared by two people with each wishing that the other will initiate something that they both desire but which neither one wants to start.”

(sent to me by my friend Maura)

By coincidence I happen upon a list of 20 untranslatable words and wonder where that Dutch word for “place-replacing shame” is, the feeling of being embarrassed on another person’s behalf.

Author: Caterina Fake

Literature, Art, Poetry, Homeschooling Mother. Founder & CEO, Findery. Co-founder, Flickr & Hunch.

One thought on “Mamihlapinatapai”

  1. Nice short blog. There is a similar expression in Spanish similar to your Dutch word “Pena ajena” being embarassed on another person’s behalf 😉

    Happy holidays. E


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