Uitwaaien, IJsberen and Afbellen – they are all untranslatable

Every languages has them: untranslatable words. They describe a feeling or a certain action no other language can capture in just one single word. So, if you want to express yourself like a true native speaker, take a look at these 5 untranslatable Flemish/Dutch words:

 

Uitwaaien

1. Uitwaaien

Literally translates as “blowing out” and refers to a refreshing break outdoors in windy weather. A lot of people go for “uitwaaien” to the Belgian seaside because the wind there is almost always present.

 

Uitzieken

2.Uitzieken

When you’re sick sometimes the best and only thing you can do is “uitzieken”. Literally translates to “sick it out” or “outsicking” and means taking it easy until you recover and let your body heal all natural and by itself.

 

Ijsberen

3. IJsberen

Pacing around in deep thought is what in the Dutch language is described as “ijsberen“. If you would translate this verb literally you would get: “Polarbearing”.

 

goesting

4. Goesting

You can use “goesting” in many different contexts each with a different connotations. You can best describe it as a want, a need for something. You could have “goesting” in an ice cream, but maybe your friend hasn’t and he wants a waffle. So you end up buying both, that way everybody gets their “goesting”.

 

afbellen

5. Afbellen

Afbellen can be literally translated as “offcalling” and means to cancel plans by phone.

 

 

 Want to learn Dutch, but don’t know where to start? We’ve made a list of organisations and schools in Belgium that offer Dutch courses.

 

Learning a new language can be hard and sometimes overwhelming, take a look at one of these blog posts if you want to have some fun when learning Dutch:

12 Belgian movies you must watch when learning Dutch

Belgians love their idioms and when you translate them into English: they are weird and funny

15 Dutch words that will put a smile on your face

5 Dutch sentences to use during your Belgian job interview

 

Guide to getting a job interview in Belgium

One thought on “5 Untranslatable Flemish words

  1. (English translation provided if needed)

    Volgens mij zijn er toch nog een paar van jullie woorden ‘vertaalbaar’, al is het niet altijd in 1 woord (als je niet per se voor de letterlijke vertaling gaat.)
    Uitzieken = sweat it out
    Goesting = a craving
    Ijsberen = pacing; jullie hebben het wel degelijk goed vertaald.

    Andere Nederlandstalige woorden die niet te vertalen zijn in het Engels:
    * buurvrouw (neighbour = genderloos)
    * koukleum
    * tegenligger
    * natafelen
    * gezellig (te veel opties als de context verschilt – ‘cosy’ komt het dichtste bij, maar is het toch niet helemaal)
    * meedenken
    *…
    En zo zijn er zeer waarschijnlijk nog wel een paar te vinden.

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