Friday, July 09, 2010

Mamihlapinatapai

Mamihlapinatapai (sometimes spelled mamihlapinatapei) is a word from the Yaghan language of Tierra del Fuego, listed in The Guinness Book of World Records as the "most succinct word", and is considered one of the hardest words to translate.[1] It describes "a look shared by two people with each wishing that the other will initiate something that both desire but which neither one wants to start."

The word consists of the reflexive/passive prefix ma- (mam- before a vowel), the root ihlapi (pronounced [i╔Čapi]), which means to be at a loss as what to do next, the stative suffix -n, an achievement suffix -ata, and the dual suffix -apai, which in composition with the reflexive mam- has a reciprocal sense.
  1. ^ Matthews, P. (ed.). 1992. The Guinness Book of Records 1993.


I love linguistics.

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