A picture may be worth a thousand words, but in some languages a single word or short phrase can convey a very vivid image indeed.

We’ve been scouring the globe for the home-related expressions that should be in every nation’s dictionary. You might have come across a few of these already, but they are sure to help you express all those lovely feelings about homely things that can otherwise be so hard to put into words.


definition of Hygge

Hard to define, and even harder to say, the Danish phenomenon of hygge (pronounced hooga) has been embraced across the globe to describe a comfortable, welcoming vibe, tied up with candles, soft blankets, open fires, coffee and cake. The dictionary translation is ‘cosy, warm, and nice’, but the Danes would argue that those everyday words just don’t come anywhere close. No problem, we’re starting to get the hang of it.

Iktsuarpok (eet-soo-ahr-pohk)

definition of Iktsuarpok

Famous for having numerous words for snow, the Inuit language also offers this word to capture the feeling of anticipation when you’re waiting for someone to turn up at your house and you keep checking outside to see if they’re there yet.


definition of wabi sabi

This Japanese expression is a worthy rival to Hygge in capturing the new mood of our time. It sums up a mindful way of living that embraces life’s imperfections, taking comfort in the simple natural beauty around us, and accepting nature’s steady rhythm of growth and decay.


definition of tingo

A delightful little word from the Pascuense language of Easter Island. It means to take the objects you covet from the house of a friend by gradually borrowing all of them. We all know people who like to indulge in a bit of tingo every so often, but on Easter Island, where the population is less than 6,000, you’d think it wouldn’t be so difficult to round your belongings up again!


definition of lagom

The Swedes’ answer to their Danish cousins’ Hygge, lagom is a tricky word to define, but loosely means, ‘not too much, not too little, but just right’ – an essential addition to Goldilocks’ vocabulary, we can’t help thinking.

Gezellig – (heh-SELL-ick)

definition of gezellig

This all-encompassing Dutch word translates as ‘cosy’, ‘quaint’ or ‘nice’ but it also describes a pleasant, friendly, convivial atmosphere which is all about relaxed togetherness.


definition of Hyppytyynytyydytys

This fabulous Finnish word is Period Living’s new favourite. How did we ever get by without a word for ‘bouncy cushion satisfaction’. The very word (say it: hoopoo-toonoo-toodoo-toos) makes you smile, let alone the bouncy cushions!

Gökotta (djuh-koo-ta)

definition of gokotta

This evocative Swedish word translates literally as ‘early cuckoo morning’ and describes the act of getting up especially early to go outside and listen to birdsong. Count me in.

Man vasanai

definition of Man vasanai

This is the oft-quoted Tamil expression for the smell of wet earth when the first rain of the season hits the ground. In fact there is an English word for this – petrichor, from the Greek word ‘petra’ for stone and ‘ichor’ the fluid that flows in the veins of the gods, but far from being Ancient Greek, this English word was constructed in the 1960s by scientists writing in the Nature journal about the unique smell. With all that in mind though, somehow the Tamil word seems so much more descriptive.

Cwtch (cootch)

definition of cwtch

Welsh for a ‘safe place’, sometimes used to mean a physical place like a cupboard, but sometimes means something more emotional or figurative, like a hug, but one that reaches someone’s heart and soul.


definition of khonsay

From Boro, a Sino-Tibetan language spoken by the Bodo people in North East India, Nepal and Bengal, is a gem of a word meaning ‘to pick up an object with care as it is rare or scarce’ – a concept that will be very familiar to readers who love to scour antique shops for treasures.


definition of culaccino

In Italian this means the mark left on a table by a moist glass. OK, we may not have a word for it, but we do have a remedy. Mix equal parts vinegar and olive oil and apply it to the mark with a soft cloth while moving with the wood grain. Use another clean, soft cloth to shine it up. To get white water rings off leather furniture, dab them with a sponge soaked in full-strength white vinegar.