Hiraeth – that homesick longing in another language

Blogger has not been functioning very well for me here at work this week, and I don’t actually bring my laptop to Sydney with me, but today I have another word, an old Welsh word, to add my collection of words untranslatable directly into English that speak of this mix of longing, homesickness, nostalgia … (see Sehnsucht, Unheimlichkeit, Tesknota and Saudade).

 Picture from here.

The fact that so many languages have a word for something similar to this, which has about it the scent of a longing for Eden, is the thing.

Hiraeth /hɪəraɪ̯θ/ is a Welsh word that has no direct English translation. The University of Wales, Lampeter attempts to define it as homesickness tinged with grief or sadness over the lost or departed. It is a mix of longing, yearning, nostalgia, wistfulness, or an earnest desire for the Wales of the past. From Wikipedia.

I found this little abstract from a project on Hiraeth, Saudade and the Concept of Longing, that writes thus:

The Welsh word hiraeth has no equivalent in English. It often translates as “homesickness,” but the actual concept is far more complex. It incorporates an aspect of impossibility: the pining for a home, a person, a figure, even a national history that may never have actually existed. To feel hiraeth is to experience a deep sense of incompleteness tinged with longing. The only living language with an exact equivalent is Portuguese, through the term saudade, which refers to an impossible longing for the unattainable. Other languages, however, hold terms that come close in meaning: dor in Romanian, Wehmut in German, kaiho in Finnish. In some cases, the term refers to issues of national history and identity.

That is all.

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