Ten Foreign Words for a Romantic Valentine’s Day

in Communication and Languages

cultural expressions of love and romance

paper valentine hearts

Ah, love and romance. They can trip up even the most eloquent among us, no matter what culture we’re from.

Fortunately, with over 6,800 languages in existence in the world today, there’s a word for just about every human emotion.

Ten Foreign Words to Boost Your Cultural Mystique

  1. bakushan (BAHku-SHAN)

Ever catch a glimpse of someone from behind and think, “Ooh, cute!” and then the person turns around and you realize, “Uh-oh, very unattractive”? Well, now, thanks to Japanese, you have a word for that experience…

2.coup de foudre (koo-duh FOO-druh)

Literally translated as “a bolt of lightning”, this French expression means “to fall in love at first sight”. My friend Alisa Diez says it’s less about the bolt and more about “the heat of the lightning.” Alisa outta’ know; she’s in a Franco-American marriage, after all.

3. oeillades (er-YAHD)

This French word is often translated as “winks” or “flirty glances” but is best-defined as “the secret looks exchanged by lovers.”

4. mamihlapinatapai (no clue how it’s pronounced)

This word comes from Yagán, one of the indigenous languages of the Tierra del Fuego region of South America, and according to Altalang, means “a wordless yet meaningful look between two people who both desire to initiate something but are both reluctant to start.”

5. gigil (GEE-gil)

Speakers of the Filipino language, Tagalog, use gigil to describe the irresistible urge to pinch something that you find adorable or cute. Although it most commonly happens when you see a cute baby, it can also be used to describe an explosively powerful emotion like anger or…well, you know. :-)

6. cafuné (ka-foo-NAY)

If pinching your object of affection isn’t your thing, you can always make like a Brazilian and indulge in some cafuné, or the act of tenderly running your fingers through someone’s hair.

7. acaronar (a-ka-ro-NAR)

But before you start fiddling with your loved one’s tresses, you might need to acaronar, a Catalán verb meaning “to tenderly pull someone closer.”

8. schatz (shots)

Don’t want to get all touchy-feely but still want to show you care? Try saying schatz. This German term of endearment literally means “treasure” and is roughly translated in English as “precious” or “cutie”.

9. kara sevde (KAH-ra SEV-de)

Lovesick Turks use this expression, which literally means “black love”, to describe a passionate, blinding love.

10. bazudee (BAH-zu-dee)

This word from the island of St. Kitts is used to describe a state of intense infatuation. Although it is usually refers to what a man feels about a woman, it can refer to any romantic pairing. Listen to soca artist Eddie Claxton sing “sexy gyal have me so bazudee”.

Want to keep things platonic?

Then hop over to my friend Michelle’s blog at Mother Tongues for a fun list of five words about friendship.

What about you? Any other foreign words and cultural sweet nothing’s you’d like to share?

Liz Cameron February 11, 2012


This is amazing! I loved reading through this list. I didn’t know kara sevde!!!

I love what you are doing in this post. Is this a part of the “red thread” I wrote about in your survey?

Keep up the amazing blog work!!!



kathrin May 23, 2012

i love it!


Justine Ickes February 11, 2012

I love these sayings! Must incorporate some of them to my usual ‘Habibi’ which means my darling, my love in Arabic.


Jarrod Brown February 10, 2012

I like “buah hati saya.” This is an Bahasa (Indonesian/Malay) term of endearment that literally translates “the fruit of my heart.” Another phrase, this one strictly Malay, that might ruin your Valentine’s Day is “mat bunga.” Literally it means “closed flower” but it refers to those, especially men, who are overly protective and jealous of their significant others.


Annabelle February 10, 2012

Funny i have never heard oeillades. Am i too old?


Justine Ickes February 9, 2012

Welcome, Dinah! Yeah, I’ve heard “schatz” used by my friends. To my ears it’s got a cozy, warm ring to it.


Dinah Barron Hess February 9, 2012

Schatz…. have been using this term of endearment for years ..;) Even our teen daughter is Schatzy. ;)


Alisa February 9, 2012

Justine, I love this! Being half Japanese, I love “bakushan”! That is hilarious and so Japanese. These are great!


Justine Ickes February 9, 2012

Hi Alisa! Glad you liked the nod to your Japanese heritage. Although I must confess that, in the interest of keeping the peace, I tweaked the definition of “bakushan” a bit. I believe it’s used when talking about a woman when seen from behind. Do you know?


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