Hello from the US! Interested to hear your favorite non-native word!

Hi everyone! I’m Josie and I’m very happy to be here for my first polyglot conference. It is incredibly inspiring to read through everyone’s stories – thank you for sharing them. Truthfully, I’ve struggled with learning other languages and have tried many different methods, but I have such an appreciation for the beauty of languages and the connections that they bring to the world that I can’t help but still want to be part of communities sharing that same passion. I hope to be able to converse with you all in a multitude of languages one day, but for now I will keep trying and be cheering you all along in your learning goals.

I’ve been working on a project to showcase words from around the world as a way to keep learning and inspiring others to do the same. I’d love to hear what your favorite words are. Mine is dimmi Italian for tell me. It’s a simple word, but I love how connection and conversation always follows it.

Always open to chatting about language learning and I of course welcome any tips/advice :slight_smile:


I have two wonderful non-native words that I think are just the cutest. They both mean onion, ceapă🇷🇴 Zwiebel🇩🇪

I didn’t think I would connect with the words for onion in other languages.


I love the word “passion” and then passione in Italian. In English I like also “butterfly” and I always wondered why “butter”. In Italian it sounds also nice Farfalla. In Greek I like “etsi ketsi” which means something like “so so” as a reply on “how are you doing?”. But it sounds like nech si kecy in my language and it would mean something like “keep your bullshit comments for yourself” :smiley:


C’est un sujet intéressant. Certains mots j’aime bien dans les langues étrangères pour le son et d’autres parce que je peux exprimer quelque chose de plus facile que dans mon allemand natal. Mon préféré serait le mot anglais « serendipity ».

I’ve seen at least two theories about why they are called BUTTERflies. One is a bit boring - that the most common butterflies tended to be cream or yellow in colour. The other, more entertaining theory is that people used to think butterflies stole butter or were what witches turned themselves into when they wanted to steal butter undetected.

I think :butterfly: sounds good in many European languages, e.g. Schmetterling in German, papillon in French, mariposa in Spanish, borboleta in Portuguese.

My favourite words include:

  • das Eichhörnchen in German (it means squirrel but sounds like it means oak-croissant!)
  • s’amouracher in French (to fall madly in love with)
  • 五颜六色 in Chinese (pinyin: wǔ yán liù sè), which means colourful and would be like expressing it as five-col-six-our in English - it definitely works better in Chinese

There were also some lovely words in Os from Zaloa’s introduction to Nahuatl this week - returning to the :butterfly: theme, I particularly liked tepotzpapalotl (I hope I have remembered that correctly) for aeroplane, which literally means metal butterfly.


Love this, Tiffany - thanks for sharing!

Hi Michaela, I also love farfalla - just rolls off the tongue nicely. Your second point made me laugh. Love the quirks and nuances of shared sounds across languages!

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Hi Steven - never knew where the word butterfly came from…learn something new everyday!

I love the words you included, thanks for sharing. It’s one of my favorite questions to ask people because rarely do you get the same ones. There are also some great stories as to why people love the words that they do.

Bonjour Ron - it’s one of my favorite questions to ask people. You make an interesting point about being able to express something more easily in another language – I find that to be one of the beautiful things about language learning, that it opens up a world of possibilities and different perspectives in expressing oneself and connecting through meaning. Thank you for sharing!

“Gruëzi Miteinand” is Swiss German for “Hello to you both”. (I usually took it to mean “Hello everyone”, but according to the dictionary, it refers to two people.) When I greet German speakers, my reflex is to say this. However, they would have no clue what I’m saying.

I also like the Swedish word “sju” (pronounced with the back of the throat sound, kind of like you are about to spit, and saying “hwhoo”), which means “seven”.


Thanks for sharing Francis - appreciate the reference and the pronunciation tip was super clear and helpful.

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If I had to learn a language just purely on how fun it sounds, it would be Swedish.

Also, I looked over my description of the pronunciation ‘sju’ (hwhoo), and maybe the first ‘h’ is pronounced with the rear of the tongue touching the roof of the mouth. I think you would have to hear it to fully appreciate it.

Mine is “myšák”, Czech for “mouse”. I don’t speak the language at all, but I picked up this word somehow and just love it (I know, I’m weird) :rofl::rofl:

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My favorite Irish word still, remains “smugairle róin”, which is how you say “jellyfish” as in the slithery slimy sea creature. But literally translated word for word, it means “seal snot”.
Bhí an trá clúdaithe le smugairlí róin = The beach was covered with jellyfish.

One of the many crazy ways Irish is such a poetic language full of fun metaphors. :grin:

Love xará in Brazilian Portuguese, meaning someone with the same first name as you. Spanish has the same concept with tocay@.


My favorite Swedish word is smultronställe. Literally, it means place of wild strawberries, but it is also used to convey a favorite place or a place to relax and destress. :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:


Hi everyone! My absolute FAVORITE word is “fruttivendolo” which means fruit seller in Italian. It is so musical and operatic, like someone is singing an aria about going to the fruttivendolo!


I’ve always liked German Augenblick. I really wish English had a single-word literal translation instead of the cumbersome phrase “in the blink of an eye”

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I also like the italian word Cipollina (little onion) that as far as I know can also be what you call your girlfriend.


Nice one MisPolyglot,
Does that make an Ice-cream maker a “Tuttifruttivendolo”? b
because that is quite a mouthful