Thursday, November 01, 2007


A Portuguese word which has no direct translation but can be roughly translated as "a feeling of longing for something that one is fond of, which is gone, but might return in a distant future. It often carries a fatalist tone and a repressed knowledge that the object of longing might really never return."

"The famous saudade of the Portuguese is a vague and constant desire for something that does not and probably cannot exist, for something other than the present, a turning towards the past or towards the future; not an active discontent or poignant sadness but an indolent dreaming wistfulness." -A.F.G. Bell

"Saudade is different than nostalgia (the English word, that is). In nostalgia, one has a mixed happy and sad feeling, a memory of happiness but a sadness for its impossible return and sole existence in the past. Saudade is like nostalgia but with the hope that what is being longed for might return, even if that return is unlikely or so distant in the future to be almost of no consequence to the present. One might make a strong analogy with nostalgia as a feeling one has for a loved one who has died and saudade as a feeling one has for a loved one who has disappeared or is simply currently absent. Nostalgia is located in the past and is somewhat conformist while saudade is very present, anguishing, anxious and extends into the future. In Portuguese, the same word nostalgia has quite a different meaning."

"Although it relates to feelings of melancholy and fond memories of things/people/days gone by, it can be a rush of sadness coupled with a paradoxical joy derived from acceptance of fate and the hope of recovering or substituting what is lost by something that will either fill in the void or provide consolation."

"Saudade is, therefore, one of the deepest human feelings, and the greatness of its power is exactly that it transcends itself, creating other feelings, which, by their turn, stimulate men. And that’s certainly one of the difficulties of translating or even grasping the philosophical significance of saudade: saudade becomes greater and deeper while illuminating other feelings, but it also becomes more difficult to understand it."


The previous quotes from various research I did this evening was inspired by a conversation I just had with my roommate, Caitlin. She speaks Portuguese and was telling me about Saudade and how english doesn't have a word for it. Have you ever heard the piece Kol Nidrei? We happened to be listening to it as we discussed Saudade. It's melodies paint a musical portrait of the essence of Saudade.


barry said...

That is absolutly fascinating.

Petraglyph said...

how totally cool! I'll try and remember that word. Incidentally, there are several words in Danish which cannot be translated into English. My favorite is "Hyggeligt": a warm, cozy atmosphere promoting a general feeling of happiness, security, and contentment.

by the way, I just left a comment on your other post too.

Happy Sabbath!

jonas said...

Hey straight-haired cello buddy!

Words are fascinating. Can you think of something if you don't have a name for it?

Caitlin said...

The beautiful, the deepest, most intrinsic aspects of life cannot be named or expressed in words - only felt in the core of ones soul.

Perhaps that's why God gave us music.

For music transcends all cultural barriers, definitions and names aside, music can communicate the human feelings through a universal language of its own.

That is why a Hebrew prayer song can define the undefinable Portuguese term saudade.

Christy said...

John: Going along with what Caitlin said, I think you can think of something without having a name for it. There are some feelings/emotions in life that a single word cannot capture. And so it takes paragraphs just to convey one thought and when you're done, you still don't know whether the message was clearly received.

Paul said...

maybe girls can think of stuff that they don't have words for, but some of us guys have a hard time:-)

jonas said...

Caitlin and Christy:
I hope I can see what your saying! Maybe I should look past the words and just ............. hmmmmmm. yes. now you know exactly what emotion I felt! ;)
but seriously, I think even our deepest set emotions are products of our thoughts, and the fabric of thought is words. You could not look outside and THINK of a _______ without knowing that it was a tree.

I think the most beautiful feeling and concept in the world has already been framed for us, in words.
"This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."
To me, the most beautiful music and the most deep-set emotion is summed up in that verse.

Christy said...

John, we think you're thinking too concrete. Emotions are different then trees. (at least last time i checked they were) Caitlin thinks trees at each different season can describe different emotions. (we're typing this together) But sometimes abstract ideas are the only way to convey emotions. Saudade does a good job of summing up a complex emotion in one word but there are some things that words (especially english words) just cannot do justice.

barry said...

Christy and Caitlin

If you really stick to your case, you will have to give up defending it, because after all, you cannot describe actual examples of the inexpressable without proving John's point for him. How will you ever use words to prove that words are inadequet?

For instance, "there are some things that words (especially english words) just cannot do justice. " Especially English? In other words, some languages express the inexpressable better than others. Expressing the inexpressable is wordy. You might as well just express

Christy said...

I see your point.

I believe the difference/confusion lies in whether you are using a WORD (singular) or WORDS (plural) to describe the indescribable. Sometimes a host of feelings can be summed up in a word (ex. nostalgia, saudade) but there are other times when there just isn't ONE single word that describes something and so we have to use many words to try and convey the emotion. Eventually (especially, as Luke pointed out, between two people who have had similar experiences) mutual understanding can be attained. But it might have gone much faster if there had been ONE single word to describe the emotion and all that goes along with it.

Alex said...

I would like to agree with John in a reverse kind of a way - that by learning more words and gaining knowledge in general we can think of things that we couldn't before and saudade would be a good example of that.

Has anyone read flatland?

Christy said...

that is a neat way to look at it. I love learning new words and it is true that people with larger vocabularies always seem to be able to articulate more precisely the point they are trying to make. However, an adverse effect is that the listeners might not understand what's being said!

Christy said...

One last thought by EGW:

Language is altogether too feeble to attempt a description of heaven.
As the scene rises before me, I am lost in amazement. Carried away with the
surpassing splendor and excellent glory, I lay down the pen and exclaim,
"Oh, what love! what wondrous love!" The most exalted language fails to
describe the glory of heaven or the matchless depths of a Saviour's love.
Adventist Home, p. 538

Caitlin said...


But as it is written:
"Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.
But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God." 1 Corinthians 2:9, 10

The homesickness we have for heaven is saudade.

God feels saudade for us too.

Post a Comment