here are the five essential Amharic words that we severely lack in English:
1. Injah (እንጃ) — ignorance
Injah basically means “I dunno.” But it’s so much more than that. You could always say ahlahwekoom (“I don’t know”) to express ignorance or unawareness, but that may sound too technical or just robotic.
In fact, injah is not derived from the verb ahwokeh (“to know”), and is only used in the first person. It’s is a fascinating word that doesn’t appear to have any grammatical category.
2. Good (ጉድ) — bad omen
In Amharic, good (pronounced “gwood”) actually means “bad” or “weird.”
More precisely, gwood is used to describe a situation that is strange or out of the ordinary. Most of the time these are unfavorable situations, but they can also be simply astonishing, like when you observe a contortionist doing something amazing and seemingly unnatural.
3. Issey (እሰይ) — cheering fate
This term is used to express extreme satisfaction that something good or bad has happened.
Someone who was lunging to hurt you trips and falls down to the extent they are no longer a threat or are demotivated to pursue their initial plan. You emphatically say: issey! cheering on the instant karma that has struck them down and further dissuading them to never try or do that again.
Be careful when you use issey! to celebrate others’ misfortune. Only say this if you know, even if they are extremely pissed off, they can’t do any harm any more.
. 4.Tigahb (ጥጋብ) — overly satisfied
The direct meaning of tigahb is “fullness from eating food.” Tigahb conveys both satisfaction and fullness, while we have whole other word for that sickness and lack of mobility that comes from overeating: “kuntan” (ቁንጣን).
But most often the power of the term tigahb and its derivatives has less to do with food and more with people being spoiled, which we’re all guilty of at one time or another.
5. Intin (እንትን) — “the thing”
This is a pretentiously long word for a filler.
Mostly, it’s used to collect your thoughts (like saying “umm…”), to change the subject, or bring a wandering conversation back on topic. It can also be used to request someone’s attention when other options like simah (“listen”) feel too direct.
But be careful! This word is closely related to intinih to refer to a man’s “thing” (if you get my meaning).
In Amharic, there are formal and vulgar terms for private parts, but they are rarely used in casual communication. Instead, each household tends to give their own unique names. However, people still commonly use the word intinih and intinish (for female “things”) without naming names, if the context is obvious.