By Various authors

23 April 2020 - 16:42

Books on shelves
'Tsundoku, from Japanese, is to buy or gather lots of books but not have the chance to read them.' Photo ©

Marisa_Sias used under licence and adapted from the original

For UN English Language Day, we asked our social media communities which words from their own language we should start using in English. Here are a few of our favourites. 


The Filipino word Bayanihan means helping your community achieve a greater purpose, while Gigil is an irresistible urge to squeeze something cute.


Umuganda, from Rwanda's Kinyarwanda language, means 'community service', which Rwandan communities take part in on the last Saturday of every month. 


Meitheal (pronounced meh-hal), an Irish word suggested by our Chief Executive Ciarán Devane, is when people get together to help someone out. It comes from a rural tradition of neighbours gathering to save a crop. 


From German, the word Lebensmut means 'courage to carry on with life'. 


The French la rentrée means 'back to school', and also the way routines change in September. The person who suggested this word said it 'feels more like New Year than January'. 


Tsundoku, from Japanese, is to buy or gather lots of books but not have the chance to read them. 

Spanish and Catalan 

The person who suggested the Spanish espabilar tells us it has a similar meaning to 'getting your act together'. 


The word hooyo, from Somali, means 'mother'.

Would you like to receive more articles like this? Sign up for our monthly newsletter


Trời ơi, from Vietnamese, is an exclamation similar to 'oh my god' in English. 


The Portuguese word saudade has a similar meaning to nostalgia. 

Thank you to our community around the world for these suggestions. To add your own, or to see more, search #WorldGivesEnglish. 

Find our resources for schools, to learn about life and culture around the world.

You might also be interested in