Lexical Gaps and Lacunas.

Lexical Gaps and Lacunas.

It is said that a child raised in England should be able to speak English fluently by the time they are twelve years old. The English Language is an incredibly hard language to master but it’s by no means the hardest. According to the BBC the hardest languages to learn for a native English speaker are Arabic, Cantonese, Mandarin Chinese, Japanese and Korean with the easiest to learn being Dutch. I took French for five years at school but I can only remember three or four words. I also know a collection of swear words from other languages and a little bit of Italian I picked up while playing Assassins Creed. I am by no means a linguist.

Lacunas or a Lexical Gap is the name of a word that does not exist in a particular language.  For example in English we don’t have a plural word for you. We have to say things like “Oi, you lot” or “y’all”. Another example, In Romanian they don’t have a word for shallow. They say not so deep. The Romans learnt a new word when Mount Vesuvius erupted. Volcano. Before the eruption there was no word for volcano because nobody had seen one before.

There are some words and phrases in other languages I think the English language should adopt.  For example the word Gigil (pronounced Gheegle) is from the Filipino language and it means an urge to squeeze something that is cute. For example…


Tartle is another lovely word, Scottish in origin, meaning to forget someone’s name while introducing them. ‘Have you met my friend….. umm….  ahhhh…. God what is it? Keith! Have you met my friend Keith?”

Akihi (Hawaiian) is something I have definitely experienced. It means listening to directions and then forgetting them as soon as you have started walking away.

Wabi-sabi (Japanese) means finding beauty in the imperfections or an acceptance of the cycle of life and death.

Forelsket (Norwegian) is the feeling you experience when you fall in love for the first time.

Mangata (Swedish) means the road-like reflection of the moon in the water.

L’esprit de l’escalier (French): translates as “staircase wit” which means thinking of a clever comment after the argument has ended.

Many of us have Tsundoko before (I’m not sure if that is the right phrasing). It’s a Japanese word meaning to leave a book unread after buying it, typically piling it up with other unread books.


There are also some odd words I didn’t know anyone had a need for. The German phrase Geisterfahrer Falschfahrer translates roughly to ghost car and is used when someone deliberately drives into oncoming traffic.

Tsujigiri (Japanese) means murdering a stranger with your sword. In Samurai culture this is understandable but I cannot see the word  being used today.

Korova (Russian) means a guy you escape from prison with so you can eat him later. This will require a bit of explaining. In the middle of the 20th century there were lots of Russians being placed into prison camps. If they escaped the prison, the armed guards and the hunting dogs they would still die of starvation. So they took a Korova with them.


The Oxford English Dictionary has been adding slang words and text speak recently. LOL (laugh of loud) LMAO (laughing my arse/ass off) Awesomesauce (taking something that is already awesome and making it more so) and Selfie (taking a picture of yourself) are a few good examples.Personally I think frenemy has earned the right to become an official word. It means a friend who is also your enemy. I also like flirtationship, a relationship in which the couple flirt but go no further.

Have you noticed any Lexical Gaps in the English Language? What words do you like that you think we should adopt?  Do you have a favorite word or least favorite? Leave your answers down below.

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