Cool Non-English Words #2: Sehnsucht

Cool Non-English Words #2: Sehnsucht

When you start learning a new language, you very quickly discover there are words in other languages that have no exact translation in English (or your own mother-tongue). This series explores those linguistic novelties….

#2 – Sehnsucht

Photo: Roman Kraft

The next word in this series comes from one of my favourite countries – Germany!

Warning – philosophical meanderings included in this post 🙂

Sehnsucht could simply be translated as “wistful longing” – but the real meaning behind the word is truly far more complex!

It could be described as a yearning for something satisfying in the future; a longing for a future hope; a nostalgia for a country or place – even if you’re not quite sure what that place is.

It is an ambiguous emotional state, but one that is deeply profound. The feeler may not even realise the emotion they’re experiencing is something they are longing after. It might be very fleeting, unless you intentionally concentrate on it.

It might come as you reflect on life – perhaps desiring a different set of circumstances or experiences. Maybe you long to know someone – though you’re not quite sure who. You yearn to find a place to call “home” – but are not quite sure what it looks like.

C.S. Lewis described is as “the inconsolable longing in the heart for we know not what.” It definitely has a sense of the future and has often been described as “life longings.”

For me, I think it has to do with the desire that all humans have for a sense of purpose, a sense of belonging, and truly knowing who you are.

Have you ever experienced Sehnsucht?

More on Sehnsucht:

Previous Cool Non-English Words:
#1: Guanxi


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