8 Rare and Amazing Words Beyond Translation

Fascinating Words That Only Exist In The Language They Were Born

Travis W. King
9 min readJul 20, 2022


After learning the meaning of Puhpowee (see below), I brought it up in conversation several times over the next week. Every time I mentioned that I had a new word — a word unknown to those with me — the group leaned in, closing the circle.

New words pique curiosity.

Bird, bird, bird—bird is the word. Photo by Joshua Hoehne on Unsplash.

I also discovered, during those exchanges, that other people are often holding onto these one-of-a-kind words. It certainly helps that I live in a culturally diverse melting pot of a community. Each of those exchanges resulted in learning (or being reminded of) a unique word.

Also, for several years before the pandemic, I was the Director of Community for Remote Year, a travel company for digital nomads. We used many of these words to name our travel communities.

Over the four years I worked there, each of our programs went by a unique name. The criteria for selecting new program names was essentially interesting, worldly, words. Many of our program names came from the staff, others from the community, and dozens have now ended up as tattoos on people’s bodies.

I’m very aware that this list is incomplete, so please share any rare words that are fluttering around your brain in the comment section.

Note: Unlesss otherwise specified, all definitions are from dictionary.com.

Photo by Phoenix Han on Unsplash.

1. Puhpowee

I learned this word from reading Underland, by Robert Macfarlane. It’s from the Potawatomi tribe, one of the larger Native American tribes from the Great Plains region. According to the book, it means “the force which causes mushrooms to push up from the earth overnight.”

You can see why I felt the need to share this word: It’s amazing. If you’ve ever watched a time-lapse of a mushroom exploding into the world, you know what puhpowee means. It’s also now my favorite onomatopoeia (words that sound like their…



Travis W. King

Traveling, writing, & working abroad for 10 years. Former Remote Year Dir. of Community. Check out my travel memoir—Not That Anyone Asked—at www.traviswking.com