Determining English equivalents for words or phrases in other languages.

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134
votes
15answers
17k views

Do most languages need more space than English?

I saw the following statement on User Experience: Supporting multiple languages can break the user interface, because most languages need more space than english This seems to be a gross ...
77
votes
12answers
5k views

Is there English counterpart(s) to Japanese old saying, “Present salt to your enemy.”?

We have a popular Japanese saying, “敵に塩を送る” — literally, “present (supply) salt to one's enemy”, meaning ‘play fair and square, not taking advantage of the weak point of your rival.’ It’s different ...
50
votes
12answers
7k views

You “show” someone a picture. You “---” someone a song?

In Maltese, we have a verb meaning "to show" corresponding to "to see/to look", and we have a different verb corresponding to "to hear/to listen": inti tara stampa (you look at a picture.) ---- ...
36
votes
10answers
5k views

“To shoot out of cannon into sparrows”

In Russian we have idiom/saying "To shoot out of cannon into sparrows" (literal translation) which is used to convey an idea of applying too drastic measures to small problems. I believe there should ...
29
votes
14answers
4k views

Is there a verb for remaining silent?

Dutch has the verb zwijgen, which means remaining silent. Ik zwijg means I remain silent or I say nothing. It is also often used as an imperative, similar to shut up. I have been discussing this ...
29
votes
15answers
5k views

A word for a joke so poorly told and so unfunny that one cannot help but laugh

There is a word for this in Indonesian language: jayus. (Maybe, it is used in Filipino and Malaysian language also.) It is a joke that is so bad, it's funny. It is often mentioned as ...
26
votes
18answers
5k views

Term describing the practice of anticipating dangers while driving

When one is driving a car (or any other vehicle for that matter) there is a German term that describes the practice trying to predict situations that might occur. When attempting to translate it I can ...
26
votes
9answers
2k views

“Saving on the parrot's chocolate is futile”

In Catalan there is an expression "ser la xocolata del lloro" that can be translated as "saving by not giving chocolate to the parrot is futile", conveying the meaning that when a household wants to ...
23
votes
10answers
3k views

Idiom for “the first attempt (of something) is never right”

In Russian there's a saying that 'the first crepe always comes out wrong' (literally 'stuck together into a ball'), meaning that you'll have to try more than once to succeed at something - because ...
19
votes
33answers
4k views

What's the English equivalent of “Drilling one's head”?

In Arabic (Specifically, north-western Levantine), there's a saying that goes like He drilled my head about/with that lunch meeting (بخشلي راسي باجتماع الغدا) Which means something along the ...
18
votes
5answers
2k views

Why are the same words translated differently into English depending on their meaning?

I've seen it several times before, but only have one example at hand right now. This Forbes article mentions Russia as country's name, but Rossiya as the bank's name, despite that these words are ...
18
votes
9answers
2k views

How can I translate the words for the two types of bathrooms found in Russia into English?

I work in real estate, and sometimes I have to translate respective inscriptions from my native Russian into English. I get stuck in some cases where not only linguistic, but cultural differences have ...
18
votes
2answers
522 views

When did we stop translating proper names?

It used to be that one would just translate a proper name that was in another language into English when referring to that entity. For example, William the Conqueror, Christopher Columbus, King ...
17
votes
4answers
1k views

Word for “distance in time”

I need the correct English word for the German expression (zeitlicher) Abstand. Abstand means "distance", and zeitlich means "in time". The "distance" between building maintenance dates is about ...
16
votes
6answers
3k views

Friendlier way to express you paid for a person's drink/dinner and expect it to be paid back

In Dutch we have the word voorschieten. In English it translates — according to Google Translate — to "advance, lend, disburse". The Dutch word voorschieten is used in an informal setting between ...
16
votes
7answers
2k views

English equivalent of a Kannada proverb

The saying goes like "ಬಡವನ ಸಿಟ್ಟು ದವಡೆಗೆ ಮೂಲ". When roughly translated to English it means: A poor man's anger only hurts his jaw [due to all the grinding of teeth in the process]. How to ...
15
votes
24answers
2k views

Favourite untranslatables [closed]

What are your favourite words and idioms in other languages that don't have good, succinct equivalents in English? (The issue of whether there is, or could be, a sentence on one language whose ...
15
votes
7answers
2k views

English equivalent of komorebi (木漏れ日) — “sunshine filtering through leaves”

Is there an English equivalent of komorebi (木漏れ日), which means the sunshine filtering through the leaves of a tree (or trees)? It is made up of three kanji and the hiragana particle れ. The first ...
14
votes
19answers
6k views

Single word for a very small amount of time [closed]

In French, if I want to quantify a very small amount of time (but not fixed: it can be 5 ms or 0.1 ms) I can use a pouième. Is there an equivalent in English? I'm not looking for an expression but ...
14
votes
4answers
747 views

What is the translation of the French word “erre”?

In French, there is a word erre which is the residual speed of a train, a ship or a car (or whatever is moving and needs propulsion). For example, if you see a red light in your car, you stop ...
14
votes
4answers
1k views

Is “plastic glass” as a container a valid expression?

In another question here (sanity of a plastic glass!) the term "plastic glass" is being used which sounds somewhat odd to me, but has not been brought into question by any respondents. Maybe it is ...
14
votes
5answers
1k views

Best word for Spanish “integral”

In Spanish there's a word "integral" which, when used as an adjective, means something like "it includes everything". When we say "servicio integral" we mean that the service includes all aspects ...
13
votes
8answers
2k views

Are there sentences in languages which use grammatical gender that lose meaning when translated into English?

English nouns which don't denote people or animals with natural gender do not (apart from a few rare examples) use grammatical gender. So for example, "table" is always an "it" in English, whereas it ...
11
votes
4answers
540 views

Are English language books translated to contemporary English? [closed]

Were Shakespeare books translated to contemporary English? Which version is more common? Is there a rule to choose which books will have its language updated? Are poems updated too? From which year I ...
11
votes
3answers
366 views

How should a person holding a foreign military rank be addressed?

While researching how to call a person that holds a rank at a foreign (non English speaking) military, I came to very confusing results: Wikipedia is not consistent on the issue: it sometimes gives ...
10
votes
12answers
2k views

Is there a single noun in English for 'jerry-rigged?'

Gambiarra in Brazilian Portuguese means a device, solution, or means to an end made impromptu, usually in a sloppy way and lacking care. I was wondering if there was a single word in English for ...
10
votes
10answers
636 views

Equivalent expression to Spanish “cutting by the healthy part”

What would be an equivalent expression to the Spanish "cortar por lo sano", probably something like "cutting by the healthy part", to convey the idea that to solve a problem from spreading, like ...
10
votes
8answers
578 views

English term for pre-thinker?

I was searching for an English translation for the German Vordenker. Basically a person, often a scientist, who began or further significantly developed a new concept or theory by contributing ...
10
votes
4answers
682 views

Minimum and maximum age of “guy”

Guy has pretty much the same meaning as the German counterpart Kerl. There is the progression of age in the sequence child, teenager, adolescent, (young) fellow, guy, old man/guy (?), senior. But ...
10
votes
5answers
631 views

What is the English equivalent to the Japanese word 学者バカ, “Scholar’s fool”?

I’m interested in the words “instant omniscience,” which Calvin Trillin, a former editor for Time magazine, used in a New Yorker magazine article (March 20) entitled "Time Edit": “There were some ...
10
votes
6answers
535 views

Finding a suitable English translation of “An old donkey pulls all the weight all alone”

A Hungarian colleague of mine just impressed upon me the idiom An old donkey pulls all the weight all alone. The phrase itself isn't a common English idiom (not to my knowledge, anyway). I think ...
10
votes
4answers
2k views

Is there an idiom that conveys the meaning of the French “mi figue mi raisin”?

The French idiom “mi figue, mi raisin” (literally: “half fig, half grape”) refers to someone or something that is neither entirely good, nor entirely bad. I guess the meaning of the expression can be ...
10
votes
4answers
688 views

How do you tell when you're reading a poor translation?

John Ciardi, in his foreword to his translation of Dante's Divine Comedy, observes that any translation is, at best, a failure. He means it is impossible to convey the depth and levels of meaning of ...
9
votes
6answers
3k views

Single word for “more than once”

Is there a single word to describe the occurrence of a pattern more than once? This word exists in a file more than once. According to an online Czech–* dictionary, these would be the ...
8
votes
11answers
635 views

Equivalent of sarcastic song “non ti preoccupare, l'importante è partecipare” among Italian football supporters

Is there an equivalent in English or American sports culture of the sarcastic song that originated among Italian football supporters, that they sing to the losing opposition team? It's like this: ...
8
votes
7answers
673 views

What do British and American post boxes say when they don't want any advertising?

Advertising leaflets shoved en masse into mail boxes are one of the banes of modern society. In Germany, putting a note saying "Bitte keine Werbung" ("No advertising please") on your box protects ...
7
votes
9answers
1k views

Translation of German “Bolzplatz” – what's the name for an outdoor area whose purpose is to provide room for soccer/football?

I am particularly looking for a good translation for the German word "Bolzplatz". This is an outdoor area where people can play soccer/football (you know, this is the most favorite sports in Germany). ...
7
votes
13answers
1k views

Does English have words to describe the lowest rank member of society? [closed]

For example, in Indonesia we have "rakyat". In English we may have citizen but the word actually has power connotation rather than powerless connotation. Another word is peasant. But that seems to ...
7
votes
3answers
633 views

Is there the gerund of the verb “can”?

I would like translate a Portuguese phrase into English: Esta técnica é bem poderosa, podendo ser extendida para várias outras questões. In English I got: This technique is very powerful and ...
7
votes
2answers
241 views

How to say “bolillero”?

In lottery games or bingo games, sometimes an object like this is used: What is the name of this? In Spanish we call it bolillero but I didn’t find the definition in Enlgish.
7
votes
1answer
190 views

English equivalent of Catalan expression “fer la senyora” for moving heavy furniture

There is an expression in Catalan: Fer la senyora Which would be translated as moving it "like a lady" defined as the action of moving a heavy piece of furniture (e.g. a wardrobe) that involves ...
7
votes
4answers
6k views

How do you mark a translator's note?

Inside a piece of text, I have a word in another language. I'd like to keep it that way, and add a translator's note with the translation to English. What is the common practice of doing that? I'd ...
7
votes
3answers
246 views

Measurements without a dimension (raw number)

I'm translating some documents to English which deal with some measurements. Most of the measurements have a unit dimension (length is in meters, weight is in kilograms, etc) but some of them do not ...
6
votes
3answers
1k views

What do you call the green slippery thing formed, due to standing in water?

I can only think of "algae" or preferably "green algae", these are in the context of science. But is there any other general word in English used for this green slippery thing? In Hindi we say, ...
6
votes
4answers
4k views

Difference between “purpose” and “goal”

What does this sentence from Star Trek: The Alternative Factor mean? Jim, madness has no purpose ... or reason ... but it may have a goal. As far as I know purpose and goal are synonyms. How ...
6
votes
3answers
402 views

What is the geographical origin of the idiom “be a fly on the wall”?

Does the following expression originate from English? I'd like to be a fly on the wall I discovered today that a similar expression exists in Brazilian Portuguese: "I'd like to be a fly" (with ...
6
votes
3answers
2k views

How would you call a word that doesn't exist or translate well into another language?

I've run into this situation several times, being a native Spanish speaker. There are some words you just can't translate into another language. Is there a particular word to describe this? I'm not ...
5
votes
3answers
549 views

Ironic phrase like Russian’s “no, didn’t hear”

Here’s a bit of dialogue which I literally translated from Russian: ― You should get a girlfriend! ― Girlfriend? Didn’t hear. . . . The idea of the answer is to self-ironically point out ...
5
votes
4answers
720 views

Is there an English equivalent for the Swedish expression “the droplet that caused the beaker to overflow”?

In Swedish, the expression "det var droppen som fick bägaren att rinna över", directly translated to "the droplet that caused the beaker to overflow", is used to express that enough is enough. Is ...
5
votes
3answers
370 views

English translation for the different parts of a course as found in French schools/universities

What would be the transposition to the US school/university system of the French expressions: “cours” (that is lecture, listening to the teacher) “travaux dirigés” (lit. directed works, students ...