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The positive lexicography

Welcome to the positive lexicography, an evolving index of 'untranslatable' words related to wellbeing from across the world's languages. For an introduction to the project, please check out my new TEDx presentation.

The lexicography

The lexicography is a work in progress. The definitions here are all provisional, and I am continually looking to refine and improve them. Any suggestions in this respect are much appreciated, as are recommendations for new words. Thanks for your support!

Social media

The Happy Words Project FB ProfilePic-01
Please contribute your suggestions for the lexicography to the project's Facebook page, The Happy Words Project. I'd be particularly grateful if you'd consider recording and uploading a short video describing the word in question. You can also follow the project on Twitter and Instagram, which include 'Word of the day' features.


Talking (Pexels).jpg
Talking (Pexels).jpg


By others

By me

The Boston Globe (July 2018): 1,000 words for happiness.

The Irish Times (July 2018): More happiness is worth having, in any language.

The Scotsman (June 2018): ‘Fiero’: A new kind of national pride for the 2018 World Cup

Psychology Today (June 2018): The call of the unknown.

Psychology Today (June 2018): The farther reaches of yoga.

Psychology Today (June 2018): How can we cultivate less problematic forms of pride?

Psychology Today (June 2018): A renewed vision of the natural world.

Psychology Today (May 2018): Sharing the secrets of good parenting.

Psychology Today (May 2018): How can we avoid resenting others?

Psychology Today (May 2018): How can we heal social division and conflict?

Psychology Today (May 2018): The pleasures of the passeggiata.

Psychology Today (May 2018): Why is acceptance so powerful?

The Psychologist (April 2018): Five words that matter to psychology.

Psychology Today (Apr 2018): The therapeutic power of nature.

Psychology Today (Apr 2018): Why all the hype about hygge?

Psychology Today (Apr 2018): Seeking nirvāṇa.

Psychology Today (Apr 2018): What does it mean to have passion and purpose?

Psychology Today (Mar 2018): Why (and how) do we long for utopia?

Psychology Today (Mar 2018): Greek philosophy and the key to happiness.

Psychology Today (Mar 2018): Why is Finland so happy?

Psychology Today (Mar 2018): The varieties of meditative experience.

Psychology Today (Mar 2018): What Finnish can teach us about resilience.

The Conversation (Feb 2018): How I discovered there’s (at least) 14 different kinds of love by analysing the world’s languages.

Scientific American (Jul 2016): The magic of untranslatable words.

Psychology Today (Mar 2016): Seeing through new eyes: The value of untranslatable words.

Psychology Today (Mar 2016): Where does the word meditation come from?

Huffington Post (Mar 2016): The importance of being koselig.

Huffington Post (Feb 2016): Mono no aware, and the aesthetics of impermanence.

Huffington Post (Feb 2016): The spirit of Aloha.

Vox (November 2019): American happiness is plummeting. Could a few words change that?

Evening Standard (June 2018): Words from around the world to describe the many different types of happiness.

The Mail (June 2018): 100 ways to be happy.

Corriere Della Sera (June 2018): La parola italiana che spiega agli inglesi l’orgoglio «buono»


The Times (Feb, 2018): How do I love thee? Science counts the ways and uncovers 14.

Balance (Feb 2018): Words for Valentine's issue.

Kurier (Feb 2017): Lexikon für die Gefühle dieser Welt.

Corriere della Sera (Jan 2017): Le parole per descrivere la felicità in 26 lingue del mondo.


BBC Future (Jan 2017): The 'untranslatable' emotions you never knew you had.

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (Jan 2017): Das Glück der Anderen.

Metro US (Jan 2017): The power of positive speaking.

Le Monde (Sept 2016): Traduire Shakespeare.

Le Temps (Jun 2016): L’intraduisible côté obscur du bien-être.


The New Yorker (May 2016): A glossary of happiness.

The Sunday Times (May 2016): Word association.

Harper's Magazine (May 2016): Joy to the world.

The Independent (May 2016): 17 beautiful words that have no English translation.

The Stylist (May 2016): Expanding our emotional lexicon.

The Mail (May 2016): Are you feestvarken?

Scientific American (Apr 2016): There are no words.

The Psychologist (Apr 2016): 216 untranslatable words.

Huffington Post (Feb 2016): On 'happiness,' A muddy word for a muddy feeling.

Mental Floss (Feb 2016): 32 words for positive phenomena that don't have an English equivalent.

BPS Digest (Jan 2016): There are at least 216 foreign words for positive emotional states and concepts that we don't have in English.

The Mail (Jan 2016): No wonder we're all so miserable! English just doesn't have the words to be happy.

Gizmodo (Jan 2016): English is surprisingly devoid of emotionally positive words.

Quartz (Jan 2016)There are hundreds of positive emotions that have no direct English translation

Interviews and presentations

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