Sunday, 6 January 2019

A new word for a new year by Philippa Linton

Image from Pixabay
I discovered a new word recently.  New to me, that is. Saudade. It’s a Portuguese word which is difficult to translate but one of its definitions is ‘a deep emotional state of nostalgic or profound melancholic longing for an absent something or someone that one loves’.  

Saudade is not the same thing as nostalgia. You can also, apparently, feel saudade for something which might never have happened ...

When I was nineteen, I was in a near permanent state of saudade, reeling from an excruciatingly painful breakup and still hopelessly in love with the person who no longer loved me back.  

There is an exquisite agony to being in love – but the agony isn’t always exquisite, of course, it’s just agony, when the love turns sour or isn’t returned. Emotional pain like this can be so great it becomes physical. That’s because we consist of body, mind and spirit: everything within us is connected, our minds and our bodies are impacted by deep emotion – how could they not be?  These emotional forces break us and make us and shape us – our dreams, our expectations of life, how we live, how we love, how we cope with loss, how we find hope again.

Image from Pixabay
Saudade. A word that captures, vividly, a unique aspect of human experience and human longing.

There are words in other languages similar in meaning to saudade: the Welsh hiraeth, for example, and the German Sehnsucht.  

Have you discovered any new words recently, in English or another tongue?
What words speak to you of particular experiences you’ve had, and have you incorporated these into your writing?

Maybe you’ve even invented words of your own.  Writers have created their own languages before.

Words like saudade and hiraeth are unique and not easily translated to another language.  Words can also have multiple meanings: there is only one word for love in English, but ancient Greek had at least four different words for love, and the New Testament uses three of them: agape, philia and storge.   

What words will you carry with you, into this new year?  What words encourage you, and what words will you use to encourage others, in your writing life and beyond it?


  1. Love this. We certainly do make up words as writers and learning things like this can make our writing all the richer

  2. You reminded me of Gerard Manley Hopkins with this. I find his poetry such an inspiration for his use of language.

  3. Oh wow ... GMH is one of my favourite poets! Thank you very much.


  4. My sister gave me a book for Christmas called 'Increase your Word Power' and I'm learning all sorts!