An atlas of inspiring words


There’s an amazing book written by Megan Hayes and perfectly illustrated by Yelena Bryksenkova, which compiles a list of the world’s most beautiful translations. We’ve picked out a few of our favourite.

 
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GÖKOTTA

[j3-ku-ta] Swedish

A ‘dawn picnic’ soundtracked by early birdsong.

Occasionally slipping out of bed at daybreak and strolling outside for an early burst of the natural world may just do wonders for our sense of well-being. This is because it encompasses many feel-good factors; rising early, mindfulness, exercise and time in nature.

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AINA

[a-i-na] Hawaiian

Land (or ‘that which feeds us’).

Aloha aina translates as ‘love of the land’, serving as a reminder - and a very important one - to appreciate this lush and abundant planet that we call home.

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WALDEINSAMKEIT

[vahyd-ahyn-zahm-kahyt] German

Forest solitude (the feeling of being alone in the woods).

A sensation whereby we are quiet and undistracted enough to feel that deep connection with the natural world. In modern life, few of us can say we spend much time connected to our ‘wild side’ in this way. So much of our busy lives are spent indoors, feeling fraught, over committed and multi tasking. Sometime it’s good just to escape to the forest, as proven by the similar Japanese practise of Shirin-Yoko which translates as ‘forest bathing’.

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FRILUFTSLIV

[fri-luf-tsliv] Norweigan

A connection to nature, literally translating as ‘free-air life’.

If you ever had the pleasure of peeking your head out of a tent and breathing in the cool dewy scent of a forest or mountain range, watching the morning sky gradually lose its pink hue as the heat of the sun intensifies, then you’ll likely have some sense of the meaning of friluftsliv.

We know the feeling well! The best feeling in the world.

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UBUNTU

[u-buntu] South African

A common bond of unanimity between all people.

The spirit of ubuntu philosophy is that only if something is good for the community at large can it possibly be good for the individual. Given our pressing environmental crisis, this inherent harmony seems like a powerful philosophy that is long overdue on the global stage.

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UNIKKAAQATIGIINNIQ

[u-ni-ka-kra-ti-di-ni-k] Inuit

The power of story-telling.

Story and myth have always played a vital role for human beings in creating shared morals, aspirations and instructions for living well. When we collectively laugh, cry or even become deeply motivated by a certain story - this is the power of unikkaaqatigiinniq.

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SISU

[si-su] Finnish

The strength of will; courage; grit.

This little word evokes a superlative strength of will, or unwavering grit in pursuit of a long-term goal, perhaps with many obstacles. Illustrating the stamina we are able to draw, not from any exterior source, but from deep within ourselves.

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YUGEN

[ju-gen] Japenese

When we encounter the mysterious beauty of the universe.

This word shares similarities with the English ‘awe’, which also describes the feeling of being deeply moved, sometimes even to tears, and often by grand natural landscapes. In these moments, we abandon rationality for a moment and enter pure, harmonious experience. These are the instances where we realise our identity as human beings, and not human doings.

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This is just a few hand-picked translations from the book. We highly recommend getting yourself a copy to read the rest.

Will Chapman