Tim Lomas, Ph.D., a positive psychology lecturer at the University of East London, has gone see a conference at the annual International Positive Psychology Association symposium in Orlando in 2015. He came back inspired. The speaker, Finnish researcher Emilia Lahti, talked about the concept of sisu which means someone who has “extraordinary determination in the face of adversity.”
“She was describing it as this psychological skill or quality that was very integral to Finnish culture and their identity.” She presented how, despite being a Finnish word, it was an ability of all people, regardless of their native tongue that anyone could possess or cultivate.
He returned to England with an idea: To create a database of meaningful, positive words for feelings, character traits and relationships, expressed with words untranslatable in English. He wrote a paper on the topic published in The Journal of Positive Psychology that contained just over 200 words. The paper drew attention in the positive psychology and linguistics communities, and people began sharing their ideas for words to include in the database with Lomas. In 2016 The Positive Lexicography Project was born.
The next list presents 15 positive words that can not be translated in English:
- ‘Bilita mpash’ – it comes from Bantu , a language from Central and South Africa and it means a beautiful , blissful dream ( the opposite of a nightmare).
- ‘Trouvaille’ – it comes from French and it is a correspondent for a lucky find , something good or valuable that you discovered by chance. Most of the times it is associated with clover because it is the symbol of luck.
- ‘Agape’ – it is a Greek word that is the feeling of selfless, unconditional and devotional love for someone it is something like love but in a different way of thinking.
- ‘Hachnasat orchim’ – it comes from Hebrew/Yiddish and makes you a person that brings guests and offer hospitality and respect to strangers. This is a popular way to live in those countrys.
- ‘Kæk’ – it is a Danish word and it suggests that someone is bold, cocky (not in a pejorative sense) with a gung-ho spirit.
- ‘Samar’ – it is an Arabic word that is used when you sit together in conversation with people at sunset or in the evening.
- ‘Suaimhneas croi’ – it comes from Gaelic and it means that you are feeling happiness or contentment for finishing a task. It is a sign of perseverance!
- ‘Nakama’ – it is a Japanese word for someone that is your best friend, someone you feel deep, platonic love for.
- ‘Yuán béi’ – it comes from traditional China and it is a sense of complete and perfect accomplishment.
- ‘Apramāda’ – it is an old Sanskrit word and it means moral watchfulness or awareness of the ethical implication of one’s actions.
- ‘Singurista’ – it is a Philippines word from a dialect called Tagalog , and it’s used for someone who would not initiate an action unless certain of obtaining the desire result.
- ‘Cafuné’ – it is a Brazilian word meaning the act of tenderly running one’s fingers through someone’s hair.
- ‘Wabi-Sabi’ – it is a Japanes word for a way of living that focuses on finding beauty within the imperfections of life and accepting peacefully the natural cycle of growth and decay.
- ‘Hyggeling’ – it is a Danish word , Its “literal” translation into English gives connotations of a warm, friendly, cozy demeanor, but it’s unlikely that these words truly capture the essence of a hyggelig; it’s something that must be experienced to be known. I think of good friends, cold beer, and a warm fire.
- ‘Sewa’ – is short for the word Kar Seva, which is a Sanskrit word meaning hands or work and service, to pay homage through the act of love. Seva is the labour done with love and performed in the service of others without expectations.