Untranslatable Words #5: Nefelibata

Hello peeps! @ailindigo here!

We're now on week 5 of Untranslatable Words and I can't believe I've been this disciplined so far 😂 I'm glad people is liking it and joining the community, it's cute to see there's more people who apprciate this world of rare and beautiful words!

This week's word is one of my favorite because I can relate to it very much, even though the word comes from the greek and exists in spanish, it seems to have a more detailed meaning in portuguese.

This spanish/portuguese word is: Nefelibata.

Gif by Wordstuck


I consider myself a nefelibata, I have a lot of imagination and daydream very much, and my friends and family can confirm this for sure. When I found out the word and read its meaning I couldn't help but think of those times in 1st grade of elementary school that I was just looking by the window watching the clouds or whatever was in the sky instead of writing down what was on the board or paying attention to the teacher.

Nefelibata literally means "cloud walker" and comes from the greek νεφέλη (nephélē, "cloud") and βάτης (bátēs, "walker"), from βαίνω (baínō, "walk"). It refers to the dreaming person, the one who seems to be in the clouds, in the inopia, outside of reality. *

The word is an adjective that can be also used as noun and alludes to a dreamy or imaginative individual, an absent-minded person. In Spanish, the word was included in the DRAE (Diccionario de la Real Academia Española - Dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy) in 1984 even though its first mention was in 1907 by poet Ruben Darío. *

So, as it is an adjective but also a noun, we could say nefelibata can be a personality trait as well as just a momentary state. For people like me, never having the feet on the ground is a common thing (though I still consider myself grounded), and always deal with the stress of those who are pissed off due to our lack of attention or slow reaction.

And there's those that just have nefelibata moments, when their minds decide to escape reality a little bit (so it doesn't cursh them maybe), they're simply scattered or distracted, even a little escape from themselves too. There's no doubt that a nefelibata is someone who has the mind focused on the abstract or on issues far from reality, he/she is not paying direct attention to his immediate environment. *


Though, while doing my research I found a more specific and even deeper meaning when looking into portuguese. According to the Dicio (Dicionário Online de Português), a writer who does not follow literary rules is a nefelibata. So, it seems like the concept is not only about being absent-minded but it also refers to people who don't follow rules imposed by society, and even more specificly, within art or literature.

A nefelibata doesn't care about restrictions that can be in the way to make/achieve something, they will go and try to make it real. This is something I can relate to a lot, to the point I'm aware of the possible bad side of this; I think nefelibatas are so away from reality and so into their interests that they turn their interests into art/have an artistic approach to them, thus nefelibatas are (or tend to be) artists (may it be writers, painters, etc).

So, the problem when one is so away from reality - or so high in the clouds regarding artistic creation is that we might fail at giving the message because of the lack of consciousness about the possible barriers that can appear in the process, like when you're just walking with your head so up that you don't see the little rock near your feet that can make you stumble.

I'm pretty sure this deeper meaning not only exists in Portuguese but in Spanish as well, taking into consideration the word's origin is not related to a specific language, and that both Spanish and Portuguese are very similar. Even though there are the good ones that make it to successfully do their art without needing the grounded rules - the ideal and essentially true nefelibatas, I think it's still necessary to have one feet on the ground since I still believe in balance, and I'm always trying not to get lost in the clouds...

What do you think? Are you always in the clouds? Are you always grounded? Or you keep yourself balanced? Please let me know what you think in the comments!

Thank you very much for passing by! :)

Previous Untranslatable Words:

#1: Torschlusspanik
#2: Mono no aware
#3: Rasāsvāda
#4: Cavoli riscaldati

This content is part of a new series to get more people interested on languages and how they, perception and culture are related!

Exclusively for the Hive Cross Culture Community, the community for language exchange or cross-cultural purposes.

If you'd like to be part of the discussion don't hesitate to hop into the Hive Language and Culture Exchange Discord server! As well as subscribing to the Hive Cross Culture Community so you don't miss any new word comming ;) We'll be sharing a new Untranslatable Word each week!

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