Destinations

Lost in translation: Words that mean something completely different overseas

Heading overseas anytime soon? We’d suggest you double check this list first.

Because while you may think what you’re saying makes sense, these words mean something completely, totally different in other languages!

Luckily, the language learning app, Babbel, have put together a list of common English words (and one innocent-sounding English name) which translate to a totally different meaning in other countries.

So if you’ve got a holiday booked in, double check the meanings of these words first:

TUNA

If you find yourself in Spain or the Czech Republic and you’re looking for sushi – be careful not to ask for a tuna roll. The fishy favourite means cactus in Spanish or a tonne in Czech. And we can’t imagine a cactus roll tasting any good.

Actual translation:

English: Tuna | Spanish: atún | Czech: tunák

ANGEL

If you happen to refer to someone as an angel in a complementary way or in terms of a spiritual being with wings and a long robe in Germany or the Netherlands, maybe think again. In German, Angel translates to ‘fishing rod’ and in Dutch it translates to ‘sting’.

Actual translation:

English: Angel | German: Engel | Dutch: Engel

GIFT

You might think you’re being kind by offering some a gift in Norway, but watch out! Gift in Norwegian means married, so you could be offering a lot more than you think…

Actual translation:

English: gift | Norwegian: give | German: Poison

SLUT

The derogatory term sometimes used by English speakers actually means ‘End’ or ‘Final’ in Swedish, so don’t be surprised if you venture to a cinema in Sweden while on holiday and see SLUT appear on the final screen!

Actual translation

English: Slut | Swedish: Slampa

FART

Let’s face it – whether you’d like to admit it or not, you might need to use this one! The vulgar word commonly used in English for gas means ‘good luck’ in Polish or ‘speed’ in Swedish.

Actual translation:

English: Fart | Polish: pierdnięcie | Swedish: Fisa

PRESERVATIVE

The English word commonly used when referring to food has a completely different meaning in France. Preservatif means condom in French!

Actual translation:

English: Preservative | French: conservateur

SMOKING

While some governments are trying to make smoking a thing of the past, the French definition of the word is totally different – meaning tuxedo.

Actual translation:

English: Smoking | French: Fumeur

GARY

Watch out, Gary’s of the world, if you introduce yourself and say ‘I’m Gary’ in Japan, it sounds like ‘I have diarrhoea’ in Japanese. Sorry.

Actual translation:

English: Gary | Japanese: ゲイリー

SEE WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING

  • ConnieHinesDorothyProvine

    You’ll giggle to see what the Russian word for belly button is.

  • Piotr Bienkowski

    It’s пупок – sounds like ‘poop ok’. Yes, somewhat funny. :-)

    While Gary means kettles or pots in colloquial Polish.

  • Piotr Bienkowski

    As far as I can tell, Gift means poison in German.

    And a question to the mods: Why was my comment under Connie’s comment deleted?

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