Mamihlapinatapai means “a look shared by two people, each wishing that the other would initiate something that they both desire but which neither wants to initiate”. It comes from the Yaghan language, which is used by the natives of Tierra del Fuego, or, to be more accurate, one native of Tierra del Fuego, as there is only one speaker of the language still alive. The word has a place in the Guinness Book of Records, as being the world’s most succinct word- that is the word which contains the most meaning in the fewest letters.
In this Youtube video a young Australian girl with captivating blue eyes explains the meaning of mamihlapinatapai and why she loves the word. The video forms part of a film, soon to be released, called “Life in a Day” which is made up entirely of short videos recorded by ordinary people all over the world saying what was important to them on one particular day, Saturday 24th July 2010. 81,000 videos were submitted. The Australian girl speaks of her regret at the loss of a language which contains this beautiful word. It’s a lovely video and Life in a Day promises to be a lovely film.