10 English Words That Can Get You in Trouble in Other Languages

by SharonKurheg

You would think that, as a species, humans would have more things in common with each other. Take language, for example. We’ve got over 8 billion people currently living on the planet, spread about among 195 countries. In total, we speak over 7,000 languages, and that doesn’t even include the 25,000 or so languages that’ve died off throughout history.

Because of these vast differences in each group of people, there are plenty of gestures that are innocent here in the U.S. that are offensive in other countries. We went over some of them a while back. But with 7,000 languages between us, it’s probably not surprising that some words in the English language that are 100% innocent mean something very different (to the point of being insulting or NSFW) in another language. Here are a few examples:


a group of cookies on a tableOreos. Chocolate chip. Oatmeal raisin. Everyone has their favorite cookie. Cookies are also small blocks of data used in computer, as a way to store information when accessing a website, or for websites to track you.

However in Hungary, a koki (pronounced the same way we pronounce “cookie”) is a slang term for a guy who’s, um, undersized, IYKWIM.


The word “face” has a few meanings in English. Outward appearance. Surface (i.e. “the face of the earth”). And a human’s face is, of course, that area between the forehead to the chin.

But if you ever find yourself in France, don’t tell someone you like looking at their face. In French, fesse (pronounced like the English “face”) means rear end.


Granted, it’s not used a whole lot in the English language, but guile mean “sly or cunning intelligence.”

But if you’re in German? Their word, geil, means horny.


a red lips imprinted on a white backgroundKiss is a very nice word in English. I mean, who doesn’t like to receive a kiss from a loved one?

But if you’re ever in Sweden, heads up there’s a similar word, kissa, which means pee.


As a verb, “lull” means, “calm or send to sleep, typically with soothing sounds or movements.”

As a noun “lull” means, “a temporary interval of quiet or activity.”

In Dutch, “lul” means male genitals.


Everyone loves payday – that lovely moment when all your hard work comes to fruition in terms of getting paid.

Don’t mention “payday” in Portugese though. In Brazil, Portugal, etc., peidei = “I farted.”


In English, pitch has a few meanings. The quality of a note when playing/singing it. The steepness of a roof. The level of intensity of something. A playing field. Throwing a ball. In business “pitch” can be used when trying to persuade something to buy or accept something.

In Turkish, “pitch” sounds a lot like piç, which means b@st@rd.


If you use the word “puff” in English, you probably mean to blow in short gusts or to emit small whiffs or clouds (as of smoke) often as an accompaniment to vigorous action. Or maybe you’re singing Peter, Paul & Mary’s song about the magic dragon (which may or may not bring you to definition #2. Although both Peter and Paul insist it’s not).

However if you’re in German, puff is a slang term for a brothel.


Whether you’re dancing a salsa or spreading it on your quesadilla, most English speakers love their salsa.

Just don’t ask your server if they have salsa in South Korea. Their seolsa means diarrhea.


If you use the word “shabby” in English, it typically means either something that’s in bad condition because it’s been used a lot or the person didn’t take good care of it.

In Mandarin Chinese, “shabby” sounds a lot like 傻屄 (shǎ bī), which is a slur for female genitalia (more specifically, “Stupid c**t.”


Apple released Siri as app in early 2010. Ever since. the virtual assistant has been using voice recognition and artificial intelligence to make peoples’ lives easier. It’s not usual for people to ask Siri to change the TV channel, look up facts, make phone calls, send texts or use apps, just by starting a sentence with “Hey, Siri…” and then giving Siri the command.

Unfortunately, in Japan, the word/name Siri translates to “尻 (shiri)” – which is Japanese for butt. In Portuguese, it’s crab.

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Bob March 18, 2024 - 5:59 pm

Geil also means “cool” in German. There is a whole grocery store advertising scheme dedicated to “supercool”: https://youtu.be/SRFTbCgHXas

Kathy April 15, 2024 - 9:56 am

Don’t label your package to Germany with the word “gift”. That means poison!


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