Is Forgiveness Something Tied to Western Philosophies/Religions and Therefore Is Not a Worldwide Idea?

I came across the above question, which suggests that forgiveness does not have a universal essence to it.  Yet, some years ago, we at the International Forgiveness Institute did a study of forgiveness words in 26 different world cultures.  As you will see below, forgiveness is not confined to Western thought.

Here is a list of various cultures and their words for to forgive” or I forgive you”:

Image by

Albanian prt falur
Catalan a perdonar
Castilian Para perdonar
Czech Odpoutm
Danish At tilgive
Dutch Te vergeven
English to forgive
Filipino upang patawarin
Finnish Annettakoon se teille anteeksi
French pardonner
German Ich verzeihe Dir
Hungarian n megbocs tok neked
Icelandic afyrirgefa
Irish a logh
Italian A perdonare
Maltese li nahfru
Norwegian Til  forlate
Polish Odpuszcza
Portuguese A perdoar
Romanian Pentru a ierta
Spanish Para perdonar
Swahili kusamehe
Swedish Frlta
Turkish BEN size bala
Vietnamese Ti tha th cho bn
Welsh i faddau

26 languages, 26 similar ways to communicate. This, of course, is no proof of the universality of to forgive” or I forgive you.” Yet, we put this term and this expression to the test and they were not defeated. At the very least we can conclude that forgiveness has a place in many cultures.

For each term or expression, we translated it from English into the other language. We then back-translated into English and retained the term/expression only if both forms of translation were consistent.  The important implication is this: We can be motivated to talk with others about forgiveness and can be quite confident that the other person, from a different culture, has words that mean forgiveness, the same word that we are using.


Please follow and like us:
Categories: Misconceptions, Our Forgiveness BlogTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *