Can You Guess What All of These Foreign Words Mean?


By: Tasha Moore

6 Min Quiz

Image: filadendron / E+ / Getty Images

About This Quiz

We satisfy your curiosity for languages with this fantastic foreign language quiz. You'll learn everyday words in remote dialects like Kannada or more common vernacular like Japanese. To make this tonguey feat sweeter, we clue you in on regional facts and real-world uses of speech you may not hear on the regular. Start building basic world vocabulary here.

There are thousands of languages and regional dialects still in existence. English is one of the most widely spoken languages, with close to one billion native and non-native speakers across the globe. And you probably have guessed that Spanish is a hot commodity; the Castilian tongue has half a billion speakers, native and non-native, many thanks to the legacy of the Spanish Empire which spread the easy-to-learn language throughout the four corners of the Earth. You'll encounter Spanish speakers in most of the continents, especially the Americas, where early Spanish conquerors did most of their work. 

Not too long ago, university business majors were strongly advised to learn Japanese as a second language, because Japan was a hub of financial activity at the end of the twentieth century. Globalization in the twenty-first century has altered how the movers and shakers communicate. English and Japanese remain languages shared in business circles, but Mandarin also plays a part among the money mavens.

No matter what your day job may be, it's wise to assemble a reserve of distant-word knowledge. Let us help you build a solid foundation!

Is it a challenge for you to identify the English meaning of the Italian word "scusa"?

"Scusa" is also the name of the fine dining Italian restaurant located in Jarkata's Intercontinental Hotel. Spin Studio's Yasuhiro Koichi from Tokyo designed the dance-floor-equipped, 90-seat restaurant which opened January 2003.


If a Spanish-speaking person says "hola" to you, what does it mean in English?

!Hola! is also the name of the hugely popular magazine that was founded in 1944 by Antonio Sanchez and Mercedes Junco. The Spanish language celebrity and pop culture publication is published in nine languages and is distributed to approximately 120 countries.


This furry animal is "kowka" in Russian. Will you choose the correct translation?

Russia is serious about protecting its cats and all other creatures. The Russian Society for the Protection of Animals was founded in 1865 due in large part to Tsar Alexander II's massive reforms of Russia's legal system. The society's mission was to criminalize, root out and prosecute rampant acts of animal cruelty that had plagued the country prior to 1865.


"Antiqua" is a Greek word. Can you choose the right English meaning?

"Antiqua" is the root of the term antiquarianism, which is a study of objects from the past. The discipline is practiced with varying degrees of intensity. Highbrow antiquarians embrace studies of historical documents, currencies, architectural history and philology.


The Estonian term "miljon" sounds a bit like the English. Do you know it?

The oldest-surviving book written in the Estonian language was printed in 1535. Tartu and Tallinn dialects emerged during the 16th and 17th centuries and were used mostly in religious texts, as literacy was low among peasant territorial Estonians.


Count your Catalan numbers. "Tretze" equals how many?

Catalan is a language spoken by people of Valencia and Catalonia regions which rim Spain's west coast. At the same time, Catalan numbers are a sequence of digits that regularly appear in math combinatorics, which deals with finite sets. The sequence phenomenon is named for mathematician Eugene Charles Catalan.


"A-roi" is a "tasty" Thai word that means ________ in English?

Every July 29 since 1999, Thailand celebrates its National Thai Language Day. Thailand's Ministry of Culture promotes the event to imbue a sense of pride for the Thai language and to encourage its correct use.


In the Armenian language "neroghoutioun" is a polite word. What is the English equivalent?

"Neroghoutioun" is an Eastern Armenian expression. After the 1915 Armenian Genocide in the Ottoman Empire, Eastern Armenian has been the territorial language of the Armenian republic, while the Armenian diaspora primarily adheres to the Western form of the language.


Do you know the meaning of the Hindi word "namaste"?

Namaste can mean "hello" as well as "goodbye." Hindu culture perceives namaste as both a hand gesture and a greeting. The standard namaste gesture involves pressing your two hands together near your heart while gently bowing your head.


Hear a joke in Hungary and you may do this. How do you translate "nevet"?

It was no laughing matter in 2016 when archaeologists discovered the tomb of Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, who lived from 1494 to 1566. The conqueror's remains were located in the small town of Szigetvar in southern Hungary, where the Kingdom of Hungary and the Ottoman Empire once engaged in fierce battle.


Bulgarian "uchitelka" describes a profession. Do you see the English answer?

Bulgaria, as with most post-communist nations, struggled to reform its higher education system after Soviet rule, when a one-phase structure was in place. After Bulgaria achieved sovereign status, its 1995 Law on Higher Education called for a degree structure in sync with western education models. The nation's "uchitelki" also needed retraining to comply with the sweeping changes.


What is the English word for "hotelu" in Kannada?

Kannada is spoken mainly in Karnataka, which is a state formerly known as Mysore that is located in India's southwestern region. The coastline of Karnataka stretches approximately 200 miles along the Arabian Sea.


You'll hear the Yoruba word "oriire" during good times. What is an English meaning of this feel-good term?

Nigeria declared independence in 1960, cutting colonial ties with England for good. The country's official language is English, although millions of Nigerians speak Yoruba, especially in the country's southwest region.


Are you confident of your translation for the Portuguese word "pequeno"?

You probably could use the Portuguese word "pequeno" to describe the size of the U.S. military prior to World War II, which was smaller than that of Portugal. Historians confirm that as of June 30, 1939, U.S. Army soldiers on active duty numbered 187,893, in stark comparison to the 8.3 million active-duty Army servicemen registered as of May 1945.


Can you translate the Polish term "dobranoc"?

One American couple profited from the Polish term. During the U.S. Great Recession, Dan and Jamie Drohman were laid off from their corporate careers. In 2011, the couple traveled to Poland, where they gained inspiration to turn a 127-year-old historic mansion into a bed-and-breakfast in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin called the Dobranoc Inn.


In Uzbek, "yomon" is not good. How do you pronounce the English equal?

Uzbekistan maintains a relatively strict criminal code in an attempt to root out all the nation deems "yomon." The dissemination of religious material and/or proselytizing on behalf of a non-registered religious community are crimes that come with strict penalties, including deportation.


The Japanese word "irasshaimase" means ________?

Politeness is so much a part of Japanese culture, that even a building in Japan will welcome you! Tokyo's Shibuya Hikarie skyscraper has an "Auto Door Zero," a sliding door that requires no electrical power. Body weight powers the door's functionality. After the user steps on a plate in front of the door, a device generates enough power to activate the door, which then shouts "Irasshaimase!"


Is it a challenge for you to select the English meaning of the French word "l'homme"?

"L'homme" is one syllable which gives the title "L'Homme Arme" a smooth vacillating tone. Between the 15th and 17th centuries, Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, Guillaume DuFay and other music composers based select opuses on the old French folk song "L'Homme Arme" (The Armed Man). In 1968 and 1971, English composer Peter Maxwell Davies penned "Missa super l'homme arme."


Zulu's "umntwana" is translated as ________ in English.

Zulu is a language, as well as a nation of approximately nine million people, the largest ethnic group in South Africa. The Zulu language includes English and Afrikaans words, and most Zulu words end with a vowel.


Can you name the Danish days of the week? "Torsdag" means ________?

Torsdag is also the name of a pea plant, as well as a 2013 Swedish film directed by Fredrik Thelander. The Danish days of the week, from Monday to Sunday, are Mandag, Tirsdag, Onsdag, Torsdag, Fredag, Lordag and Sondag.


The Hebrew word "toda" is translated as ________ in English?

"Toda" is used often among Hebrew-speaking people. Hebrew is the official language of Israel and the authentic language of the Bible. The modern form of the Hebrew language began to emerge after 500 B.C. As Hebrew cultural identity strengthened throughout the diaspora from the seventh to the 17th centuries, so did the language and its use.


Are you confident that you know the English translation for the Belarusian word "hramada"?

In Belarus, "hramada" has profound political connotation. Narodnaya Hramada Belarusian Social Democratic Party is an unregistered "hramada," or "People's Assembly." Registered democratic parties include the Belarusian Social Democratic Hramada and the Hramada Belarusian Social Democratic Party.


Among the options, choose the English translation for "nikdy" in Slovak.

Slovakia adopted the Slovak State Language Law in 1995, with amendments in 2009. The law imposes fines on people who do not use the Slovak language correctly at companies and in offices. It has increased existing tensions among Slovakians and Hungarians, who live in Slovakia's southern region.


"Hatari" is a Swahili word, as well as the name of a 1960s film. How easy is it for you to spot the English meaning?

It is likely that Kenyan residents use the word "hatari" quite often. Ex-patriots living in Kenya are under the constant threat of violence. In the early 21st century, some homes were equipped with panic buttons that read "hatari." Security measures have since advanced for the more fortunate residents.


Do you recognize the English translation for the German word "bitte"?

"Bitte" is used to reinforce German civility in the title "Pass the Blutwurst, Bitte," which is a theater showcase first conceived and produced by American performance artist John Kelly in 1982. The production is based on the Expressionism artwork and life of Austrian painter Egon Schiele.


Try to quickly choose the meaning of the Urdu word "gharhi."

Urdu is spoken primarily in India and Pakistan and by more than 100 million people worldwide. The language developed during the 12th century and includes numerous Persian and Arabic linguistic elements.


The Norwegian term "vann" describes a very abundant element. What is it?

Norway has had a rough time purifying its "vann." Between 1984 and 2007, the Scandinavian nation experienced 102 waterborne outbreaks. Disease cases resulting from groundwater contamination totaled 17,243 during the same time period.


Can you guess the English equivalent of "mamao" in Samoan?

Though Samoa is far from mainland United States, a 2009 calamity on the island struck close to where some U.S. citizens call home. A violent earthquake with a magnitude of 8.0 and 8.3 hit 120 miles from the U.S. territory of Samoa, and roughly 125 miles from the country of Samoa. The earthquake triggered a massive tsunami that swept both coasts.


The word "akamai" in the U.S. state of Hawaii is probably a good thing. Try to guess its English translation?

Gwen Keake' "akamai" Kennedy was clever enough to incorporate the popular Hawaiian term in her stage name. She is otherwise known as "The Barefoot Hawaiian," an entertainer who began her Hawaiian dance career at the age of 3. Some mainland Americans received their first Polynesian experience from attending Kennedy's elaborately authentic performances.


"Aitvaras" is a well-known entity in Lithuanian folklore. Do you recognize the literal English meaning?

The aitvaras is a mythical meteor dragon of Lithuanian folklore that brings good fortune to select households. As a result of Christian influences, the mythological creature has evolved, acquiring more sinister, devil-like qualities.


A famous Dutch ship included the word "vrouw." Can you identify the meaning of this word from these choices?

"Vrouw" takes on a motherly tone in the title Vrouw Maria, which was the name of a double-masted Dutch ship that sank in 1771 near Turku, Finland. The sunken ship was discovered in 1999 in relatively good condition below 130 feet of water and positioned upright on its keel.


How easy is it for you to choose the English version of Pashto's "shaazaada"?

You'll get a slightly different Pashto spelling of the word "prince" depending on whom you ask. The U.K. military endeavor "Operation Black Prince" is also referred to as "Operation Tor Shezada," which includes the spelling variation for "prince." The purpose of the mission, conducted in Sayedebad, Central Helmand Province in Afghanistan, is to rid known insurgents from the region.


Do you carefully choose the English meaning of the Welsh word "anifail"?

You'll find assorted "anifeiliaid" at the Welsh Mountain Zoo, located in Colwyn Bay. The zoo, which became the National Zoo of Wales in 2008, opened on May 18, 1963. Founder Robert Jackson had run a series of seasonal "mini-zoos" at resort locations during the 1950s while he sought a permanent location.


The Afrikaans word "kolwyntjie" means ________ in English.

Afrikaners of South Africa are serious about their "kolwyntjie" and other desserts, like malva pudding which is a popular dessert that originated in South Africa. The dessert is a pudding cake crafted by Dutch Afrikaans artisan gourmet chef Kari Malva. The dessert is made from simple ingredients: flour, apricot jam, butter, sugar, cream, eggs, milk and vinegar.


"Harri" in Basque means what in English?

There are approximately one million Basque speakers who mainly inhabit regions of France and Spain. "Harri" is considered an ancient word that is a component of many names, including "Harrietta," a female name of French origin that means "ruler of the home."


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