I want to share what I read from The Upside of Irrationality to a friend who doesn't understand English very well. Here is the context of where this phrase comes from (though I think this phrase is self-explainatory, but I decide to give the context just in case) :

This is also why playing hard to get can be a successful strategy in the game of love. If you put an obstacle in the way of someone you like and [he or she] keeps on working at it, you're bound to make that person value you even more.

4 Answers 4


When I find myself in a situation where I question whether an expression translates literally, there are a few ways I proceed.

  1. Check the origin of the expression. Often times the phrase is from an internationally known work and the phrase is more international than you'd think.

  2. Look for explanations or synonyms of the expression and try to translate them.

  3. Check to see how the phrase is translated into other national languages for inspiration.

The phrase, the best I can tell, dates from the mid 1900's - but not from any internationally known source that I can track down. (One can't help but wonder how we expressed the idea in English before then and whether that expression would be helpful in this discussion.)

The second option turned up the following:

  • To pretend to be uninterested in a romantic relationship.
  • Pretend to be inaccessible or uninterested;
  • act coy, especially with the opposite sex.

The first choice suggests Andrew's ŝajnigi sin neinteresata. "Coy" is often translated modesta, sinĝena, or retiriĝema -- of these three I think sinĝena is the best choice.

I found some interesting expressions in French and German. The most transparent of them was the German sich unnahbar geben - sin ŝajnigi neatingebla.

Of all the possibilities suggested or considered so far, I would consider sin ŝajnigi neatingebla the best choice, both for this context and in general.

  • An older expression for "playing hard to get" that I have often encountered in literature is "to spurn [someone's love]". How does that translate into Esperanto?
    – Tsundoku
    Nov 30, 2016 at 11:04
  • I understand "spurn" differently. When someone plays hard to get, they're just pretending not to be interested. When you spurn someone, you really are not interested - and you reject the affections totally. By the way, I also thought of the word koketi - but playing hard to get is just one way of doing that, and probably the least stereotypical way as well. Nov 30, 2016 at 15:38

Here are some ideas:

  • taksi sin altapreza to consider oneself dear
  • ŝajnigi sin neinteresata, nekortuŝebla to make a show of being uninterested, unmoved
  • ludi la forulinon, la fierulinon to play the faraway girl, the proud girl
  • konduti kiel neakireblulo, nealireblulo to behave like an unobtainable, an inaccessible one

In your example, I think ŝajnigi sin nekortuŝebla should work.


La esprimo tradukita el la sveda estas "Roli nekaptebla". Mi ne scias kiom ofta la vorto "kapti" estas en Espreranto rilate al amindumado. Se gxi ja estas ofta, mi kredas ke la esprimo intenacie kompreneblas.


Playing hard to get = ŝajnigas sin nealirebla (ne-al-ir-ebla)

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