Obscure German Sorrows: Weltschmerz and Lebensmüde Posted by Constanze on Apr 15, 2015 in Language
Today’s untranslatable German words post was inspired by John Koenig’s project, The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows. This ‘dictionary’ fills gaps in the English language for feelings that were never given a name. One of the ones I came across on there had a German name: Altschmerz.
weariness with the same old issues that you’ve always had—the same boring flaws and anxieties you’ve been gnawing on for years, which leaves them soggy and tasteless and inert, with nothing interesting left to think about, nothing left to do but spit them out and wander off to the backyard, ready to dig up some fresher pain you might have buried long ago.”
Altschmerz is a compound noun made from the words alt (old) and Schmerz (pain). It therefore translates to ‘old pain’. This word does not exist in the German language!
A very similar word that does exist in German, however, is Weltschmerz. This is a word that we don’t have in English, so I’m going to break it down for you now.
What does Weltschmerz mean?
Weltschmerz is the depressing feeling you get when comparing the actual state of the world to the picture you have in your head of how the world should be, and knowing that the picture in your head can never exist.
What does Weltschmerz literally translate to?
Weltschmerz is a compound noun made from the words Welt (world) and Schmerz (pain). It therefore translates to ‘world pain’.
How would you use Weltschmerz in a sentence?
Was kann ich gegen Weltschmerz tun? – What can I do to stop Weltschmerz?
What is the nearest English equivalent to Weltschmerz?
World-weariness. It is also sometimes compared to a state of depression.
While we’re on the topic of obscure sorrows, here’s a bonus word!
What does Lebensmüde mean?
It describes the feeling of being tired of life. It is either used for people who are fed up and depressed, or for people who’ve done something out of character as a way to ‘spice up’ their dull lives (they may have been lebensmüde as a reason for doing something out of character).
What does Lebensmüde literally translate to?
Lebensmüde is a compound noun made up of the words Leben (life) and müde (tired). It therefore translates to ‘life tired’.
How would you use Lebensmüde in a sentence?
Bist du lebensmüde? – Are you lebensmüde?
What’s the nearest English equivalent to Lebensmüde?
Like Weltschmerz, its English equivalents are world-weary, depressed, fed up, and maybe restless and dissatisfied, too…
John Koenig should look to German to fill the rest of the gaps in the English language. There is a word for everything in German.