Determining English equivalents for words or phrases in other languages (that is, translation into English)

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164
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15answers
28k 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 ...
87
votes
13answers
8k 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 ...
80
votes
10answers
19k views

Captain America said “if you get killed, walk it off!” How to understand “walk it off”?

The Avengers 2 just hit China yesterday. The official translation of the line "If you get killed, walk it off!" is "Someone is trying to kill you, run, run for your life" (This is the English version ...
56
votes
11answers
8k 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.) ---- ...
44
votes
25answers
7k views

Is there a similar English phrase for this Tamil proverb - “Lavish outside home yet starving inside of it”?

In Tamil, a south Indian language, there is a saying which roughly translates into English as: Lavish outside home, starving inside of it. Background : This proverb has a mocking tone and ...
39
votes
15answers
9k 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 untranslatable....
38
votes
15answers
6k views

Are there English equivalents for “as beautiful as butt inside out”?

There is an old saying in Ukrainian folklore, which literally sounds like “[someone is] as beautiful as ass inside out” (“Гарна як срака навиворіт”). It is used when one wants to point a person's ...
37
votes
10answers
11k 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 ...
31
votes
27answers
12k views

Derogatory term for a corporate employee

I’m looking for a derogatory term for a person who works in a big, international business. In Polish we have a few informal words for that, like korpoludek (“corpo little guy”) and korpoczłowiek (“...
31
votes
14answers
5k 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 ...
27
votes
7answers
6k views

Is 'I f*cked the dog' an actual idiom and are there alternatives

I am a non-native speaker from Germany. In German there's one idiom that goes: Sich die Eier schaukeln Literally translated, this means "to rock the eggs", where "the eggs" are testicles. This ...
26
votes
18answers
6k 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 ...
26
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 ...
21
votes
9answers
3k 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 ...
20
votes
33answers
6k 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 ...
20
votes
10answers
34k 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 ...
19
votes
2answers
1k 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 ...
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 ...
17
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 ...
17
votes
4answers
3k 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

What do you call a glade or path created artificially in order to to prevent wildfires?

Now that wildfires are such a huge issue everywhere it's a wonder that the word isn't in everyday use. Such paths, or glades, don't always prevent wildfires, but they sure make the firefighter's job ...
16
votes
8answers
3k views

What is the English equivalent of the Persian word “Saghi” (ساقی)?

About the word: In Persian, Saghi is someone who pours wine and hands it. In Iran, when friends gather to drink wine together, they sit around and one of them (with a rather higher social status ...
16
votes
6answers
5k 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
5k 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
21answers
4k views

Idiom for doing something intentionally despite knowing the outcome might be bad

Is there any idiom for doing something intentionally despite knowing the outcome might be bad, or an expression for a person who does such a thing? For example, I know that if I ask someone a ...
15
votes
7answers
3k views

What is the English synonym for the German word “Sparmeister”?

Well, the title pretty much says it all. A Sparmeister (noun), briefly speaking, is a person who is concerned about his finances and tries to avoid spending money whenever possible. a ...
15
votes
11answers
3k views

Translation of a German word: “Gutmensch”

The word "Gutmensch" consists of gut = good Mensch = human Sounds like a compliment but actually the word is very insulting. It describes someone who (for example) is not able to take criticism,...
15
votes
4answers
4k 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
4answers
1k 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
5answers
2k 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 ...
14
votes
7answers
2k views

English equivalent of “a**holes don't have horns”

We have this expression in Hindi slang. Situation: A: "I can't believe he treated me like that. I was stupid to trust him" B: "Don't beat yourself up. How were you supposed to know he would ...
14
votes
3answers
5k views

It's too cute! But what is “it”?

Sometime on the Internet we see some cute cat doing some cute things: And because of that, an English speaker will say: It's too cute. Because I'm French, and in French we have no good equivalent ...
14
votes
4answers
782 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 ...
13
votes
19answers
10k 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 ...
13
votes
9answers
1k views

Word similar to “distraction” but with jokey connotation

I was wondering if there is a word that carries the same meaning as "distraction" but can be used for a comedy effect too. As an example, imagine a situation where my parents are away and I've been ...
13
votes
6answers
3k views

What do you call the habit of looking into smartphone while walking?

The habit of looking into and texting on a smartphone is becoming a prevailing social phenomena in Japan these days. We call this habit “歩きスマホ – aruki sumaho – using a smart-phone while walking” in ...
12
votes
6answers
10k views

Is there an English word for a woman who has recently given birth?

In some cultures, there are lots of customs about a woman who has recently given birth to a baby, such as feeding special fancy meals to her, taking special care of her, and so on for (a certain ...
12
votes
6answers
5k views

Is the “female” in “female cousin” redundant here?

"My female cousin working for a finance company was dismissed. Disappeared along with her job were her confidence and smiling face." There is a very complicated system in Chinese for naming ...
12
votes
6answers
9k 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 ...
12
votes
6answers
5k 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 ...
12
votes
4answers
1k 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 ...
11
votes
7answers
1k views

English Idiom 'cut the apple in half'

There is a French idiom, which translated word-for-word is Let's cut the apple in two It means both parties will benefit from 50% of the requested initial negotiated deal. Can this idiom be ...
11
votes
3answers
588 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
3k 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
3k views

Is there an idiom like the Russian's “Untilled field”?

"Непаханое поле" - a [big] amount of undone work. Updated example: a kid is leisurely watching TV while there a lot of undone homework (which he hasn't even started). Note: the example below is ...
10
votes
10answers
887 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
838 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 epoch-...
10
votes
7answers
1k 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 ...