What is Saudade? – Portugalist (2023)

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Saudade is a Portuguese word that’s often described as untranslatable but, open a bottle of wine with a Portuguese friend and, they’ll happily try to explain it to you.

The truth is that saudade can’t be translated into a singular English word, but that doesn’t mean we can’t explain it in a few English words. Well, more than a few considering the length of this blog post.

It’s a little like German words. Torschlusspanik, for example, literally means “closing gate panic” and it’s the feeling that the gates to life’s opportunities are closing. It’s something we feel as we get older and we haven’t achieved as much as we would like, whether that’s in a career or outside of it, romantically or otherwise. Germans have a word for this, and although we don’t have the same word, we can completely understand it.

Saudade is a little more complicated, but it’s worth taking the time to understand this beautiful word. A lot of people associate it with sadness or loss, but it’s more complex than that.

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What is Saudade? – Portugalist (1)

So, what does saudade really mean?

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, In Portugal of 1912

Although Saudade appears in literature before The Age of Discoveries, when Portuguese sailors went on voyages to the other side of the world, Saudade is often associated with this period of history.

The wives of the men, it’s said, would feel saudade for their husbands. This saudade is a longing or yearning or a pining for them, a feeling of sadness or melancholy, a feeling of absence, but also a feeling of happiness for the memories they have together.

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Feeling the absence of their husbands, the wives would feel incomplete. They would feel the distance between them and their husbands, and they would know that, despite all the good memories, they might not get to create more good memories in the future. Likewise, the sailors would feel saudade for their wives and also for Portugal.

The word has come up a lot more recently as more and more Portuguese people have moved abroad for work. They’ll naturally feel saudade for Portugal and their families back in Portugal, and their families will feel saudade for them.

What could you feel saudade for?

It isn’t just 15th Century Portuguese women that feel saudade. Anyone can feel saudade.

You might feel it for:

  • Someone
  • Something
  • A place (especially your homeland if you’re living overseas)
  • A different time in your life
  • A different stage in a relationship (usually when things were better)

It’s very easy to feel saudade for your twenties as you get older: you remember the good times, but you feel sad that those times are gone. Childhood is another example. Most of us look back fondly on our childhoods, but at the same time feel sadness when we think about it.

What is Saudade? – Portugalist (2)

Some people argue that’s simply nostalgia, but the Portuguese language has a word for nostalgia. Saudade is something different.

(Video) LISBOA SAUDADE

Obviously, you can feel saudade when somebody dies. We all know what that feels like. You miss them and you notice their absence. It feels like there’s a piece missing of the jigsaw that is your life.

What is Saudade? – Portugalist (3)

But, you can also feel happy at the same time. This is where saudade gets a bit more complicated and what separates it from sadness.

Happiness & Saudade

Although sadness is a big part of saudade, you can also feel happy as well. It’s a very complex emotion. You’re sad that someone is gone (whether they’re dead, moved away, or even just not here right now), but you also feel happy for the good times you spent together.

There’s another kind of happiness that seems to go with saudade, and that’s the enjoyment the Portuguese take from getting to experience saudade. Although saudade can involve happy emotions, most of us would still rather avoid the feeling of saudade if we could.

The Portuguese, on the other hand, seem to enjoy going through it – even if it’s ultimately more sad than happy. As the Portuguese writer Manuel de Melo says, saudade is “a pleasure you suffer, an ailment you enjoy.”

Saudade for the future

Saudade is normally associated with the past, but did you know you can feel saudade for something that hasn’t happened yet?

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You may be having a great time with someone, but end up feeling saudade that one day you won’t get to see them. You’re feeling that longing and absence before it’s actually happened.

Saudade doesn’t just apply to death, although that’s a very obvious example that we’ve all felt, but also to events that might never happen. You might be having a good time with a friend, but at the same time feel sad that one day you might not be friends or that one of you might have moved. This situation might never happen, and there might be no reason to indicate it ever could, but sauade isn’t something that’s necessarily logical.

Saudade and fado

It’s not surprising that saudade has made its way into the arts, particularly literature and music. Saudade is a common theme in Fado music especially, and many of the songs are about longing for loved ones or for previous times.

The word fado itself means fate, and speaks of a destiny which you have no control over, and this highlights another element of saudade: the idea that we have no control over the future.

Fado music itself usually sounds very sad as well as touching on sad themes. Even without understanding the lyrics, you’ll feel the sadness that the fadista is describing.


Saudade in the rest of the world

When the Portuguese went into the New World, they brought saudade with them. Brazilians, Angolans, and Cape Verdeans all use the word saudade and it features strongly in their music as well. There’s even a Dia da Saudade in Brazil, which is celebrated on the 30th of January.

But as Portuguese as saudade is, the idea isn’t unique to the Portuguese language. The Galicians, who live next door to the Portuguese, have a word for saudade as well. They also have the word morriña, which is described as a “saudade so strong it can even kill,” and is something that’s felt by Galicians homesick for their country.

(Video) Lisboa praça do comércio #oh saudade!

Many scholars have noted that a similar word exists in many other countries. The Welsh have “Hiraeth,” the Romanians have “dor,” and the Germans have “Sehnsucht.” Of course, the Germans have a word for it. They have a word for everything.

FAQs

How do you explain saudade? ›

Saudade is a feeling of longing, melancholy, desire, and nostalgia that is characteristic of the Brazilian or Portuguese temperament. It describes a deep emotional state; a yearning for a happiness that has passed, or perhaps never even existed.

What is the meaning of the name saudade? ›

Saudade is a word for a sad state of intense longing for someone or something that is absent. Saudade comes from Portuguese culture, and it is often expressed in its literature and music. Saudade is described as a kind of melancholy yearning.

Is there an English word for saudade? ›

Saudade is a word in Portuguese and Galician that claims no direct translation in English. However, a close translation in English would be "desiderium." Desiderium is defined as an ardent desire or longing, especially a feeling of loss or grief for something lost.

What is another word for saudade? ›

What is another word for saudade?
longingmelancholy
missingnessnostalgia

Why is saudade important? ›

It is the primary means of expression in Fado music, which was born in poor districts of the Portuguese port cities. This music genre expresses the entire essence of saudade – an inconsolable longing, which comes from the very bottom of the soul, for something that cannot be described, is lost, and cannot be retrieved.

Why is saudade happy and sad? ›

Saudade is a longing, an ache for a person or place or experience that once brought great pleasure. It is akin to nostalgia but, unlike nostalgia, one can feel saudade for something that's never happened, and likely never will. At the heart of saudade lies a yawning sense of absence, of loss.

Why do I feel saudade? ›

We can only feel “saudade” for people or places we love. When we are not around those people or are far away from those places, we feel empty. That's why some people have described “saudade” as the presence of absence. So “saudade” is also nostalgia.

What language is saudade? ›

saudade. This untranslatable Portuguese term refers to a melancholic longing or yearning. A recurring theme in Portuguese and Brazilian literature, saudade evokes a sense of loneliness and incompleteness.

How do you use saudade in a sentence? ›

Todos nós sentimos muita saudade de você. We all miss you very much. Ele sente muita saudade de sua família.

What is it called when you are happy and sad at the same time? ›

Ambivalence means “feeling both good and bad,” Jeff Larsen, a professor of psychology at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, told me. Feeling bittersweet or nostalgic are common forms of it.

What is it called when you miss someone? ›

Bereaved is an adjective describing people in deep sorrow at the loss of a loved one. For some, being bereaved helps them leave the sadness or release themselves from it by experiencing it for awhile.

Does saudade mean Bittersweet? ›

how is saudade used? “Saudade is a bittersweet feeling of longing for a loved person or a place that is gone,” I finally said, as melancholic memories of my beloved ones forcefully surfaced in my mind. “Some people translate it as the love that remains.

What is the word for feeling missing out? ›

or fo·mo. [ foh-moh ] SHOW IPA. / ˈfoʊ moʊ / PHONETIC RESPELLING. noun Slang. a feeling of anxiety or insecurity over the possibility of missing out on something, as an event or an opportunity: If I say no to a party invitation, I get a bad case of FOMO.

What is longing for love called? ›

Limerence is considered as a cognitive and emotional state of being emotionally attached to or even obsessed with another person, and is typically experienced involuntarily and characterized by a strong desire for reciprocation of one's feelings—a near-obsessive form of romantic love.

How do you describe a longing feeling? ›

A longing is a strong feeling of need or desire for someone or something. If you're stuck in detention and all of your friends are outside enjoying a sunny day, you might be looking out the window with longing. A longing describes an unfulfilled desire.

Is longing a feeling or an emotion? ›

Longing is defined as “a yearning desire.” (I love that.) The intensity and level of emotional charge that a feeling or experience has, often matches the level of self growth and change that can manifest from it. Within that space, where the feeling of longing lives, is where you can create some big shifts from within.

Does longing mean sad? ›

If you feel longing or a longing for something, you have a rather sad feeling because you want it very much.

What happens to brain with sad? ›

Sadness is associated with increased activity of the right occipital lobe, the left insula, the left thalamus the amygdala and the hippocampus. The hippocampus is strongly linked with memory, and it makes sense that awareness of certain memories is associated with feeling sad.

What is it called when your randomly sad? ›

Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. Also called major depressive disorder or clinical depression, it affects how you feel, think and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems.

Does sadness last longer than happiness? ›

Sadness is the longest lasting of all emotions taking on average 120 hours to pass. Hatred is the second most enduring emotion followed by joy which lasts an average of 35 hours. Guilt lingers longer than the hot burn of shame; and fear tends to pass fairly quickly compared to anxiety which generally lasts much longer.

Is saudade a grief? ›

“Saudade is a deep emotional state of nostalgic or profound melancholic longing for an absent something or someone that one cares for and/or loves. Moreover, it often carries a repressed knowledge that the object of longing might never return.

What causes feelings of longing? ›

Longing: Longing often comes from feeling like there is something missing in life. Sometimes people can easily identify what's missing and other times it isn't obvious to them, but is a pervasive sense of being dissatisfied or unfulfilled and wanting something but not knowing what.

Where do you feel sad in your body? ›

Along with the emotional baggage it carries, extreme sadness can cause distinctive physical sensations in the chest: tight muscles, a pounding heart, rapid breathing, and even a churning stomach. As you can see on the body map, survey respondents pinpointed the chest as a major spot for the manifestation of sadness.

Does saudade exist in other languages? ›

As we've seen earlier, most Latin languages don't have an equivalent for 'saudade', but Romanian is an interesting exception. In the Romanian language, the word 'dor' describes that longing, and aching feeling of missing someone, or something.

Is saudade a French word? ›

Perhaps my favorite of these elusive words is saudade, a Portuguese and Galician term that is a common fixture in the literature and music of Brazil, Portugal, Cape Verde and beyond. The concept has many definitions, including a melancholy nostalgia for something that perhaps has not even happened.

What is crush in Portuguese? ›

queda [ feminine ] I have a crush on him. Tenho uma queda por ele.

What Does filled longing mean? ›

strong, persistent desire or craving, especially for something unattainable or distant: filled with longing for home.

What is the meaning of feeling yearning? ›

/ˈjɜː.nɪŋ/ a strong feeling of wishing for something, especially something that you cannot have or get easily: I guess it's because I live in a city that I have this yearning for open spaces. Synonyms. desire (WANT)

Is Hiraeth the same as saudade? ›

Hiraeth is often likened to nostalgia in English or saudade in Portuguese, and it shares qualities with the German concept of sehnsucht, but none quite match exactly. It combines elements of homesickness, nostalgia and longing.

What is it called when your happy one minute and angry the next? ›

Overview. Cyclothymia (sy-kloe-THIE-me-uh), also called cyclothymic disorder, is a rare mood disorder. Cyclothymia causes emotional ups and downs, but they're not as extreme as those in bipolar I or II disorder. With cyclothymia, you experience periods when your mood noticeably shifts up and down from your baseline.

What is it called when you are not happy but your sad? ›

Euthymic mood is defined as a state of 'okayness', where an individual is neither happy nor sad. This is a neutral mood.

What is a mix of anger and sadness called? ›

Irritable Depression: When Sadness Feels Like Anger.

How do you remove someone from your mind and heart? ›

The 12 strategies below can help you refresh your focus.
  1. Figure out why. ...
  2. Focus on the facts. ...
  3. Accept instead of reject. ...
  4. Write it down. ...
  5. Find a positive distraction. ...
  6. Work on self-discovery. ...
  7. Prioritize meeting your own needs. ...
  8. Keep a healthy distance.
27 Apr 2020

What happens psychologically when you miss someone? ›

Changes in brain chemistry: Scientific studies indicate that your brain reacts significantly when you're missing someone you love: The oxytocin and dopamine that's released during a relationship suddenly stop flowing. You become chemically dependent on their presence in your life.

What is it called when you love someone so much it hurts? ›

Unrequited love involves having strong romantic feelings toward another person who does not feel the same way. It is a one-sided experience that can leave people with feelings of pain, grief, and shame.

What is a word for sweet sadness? ›

The adjective bittersweet doesn't just refer to taste. It can also describe a blend of emotions that are sweet but also tinged with sadness.

What can I say instead of bittersweet? ›

On this page you'll find 127 synonyms, antonyms, and words related to bittersweet, such as: poignant, stirring, touching, and arousing affect.

How do you describe bittersweet feelings? ›

For those who may not know, bittersweet is the feeling you get when you are happy about something, but also a little bit sad. This feeling often comes when something ends in life that is generally happy but marks the end.

Is FOMO a trauma response? ›

A person will be more likely to experience FOMO if they are already highly sensitive to environmental threats. This includes people who struggle with social anxiety, obsessive or compulsive behaviors -- including diagnosed obsessive-compulsive disorder -- or have a form of emotional trauma in their past.

Is FOMO a mental illness? ›

Even though FOMO is not currently a diagnosable condition, it can have specific symptoms, according to a 2021 report in Technological Forecasting and Social Change. Some of these symptoms include: Obsessively checking social media to see what others are doing.

Is FOMO a form of anxiety? ›

FoMO is considered as a type of problematic attachment to social media, and is associated with a range of negative life experiences and feelings, such as a lack of sleep, reduced life competency, emotional tension, negative effects on physical well-being, anxiety and a lack of emotional control; with intimate ...

What kind of trauma causes limerence? ›

Limerence often occurs when there are cracks in our primary relationship. Limerence is also a symptom of relational trauma from early life attachment wounds. Jumping ship to a new relationship is not the answer for limerence. Better we invest our energy in how we relate to our partner and how they relate to us.

What is a hidden lover called? ›

A paramour is a lover, and often a secret one you're not married to.

How can you tell if someone is a limerent? ›

Symptoms of limerence
  1. Craving for love. The limerent wants reciprocation more than anything from their object of desire. ...
  2. Creating fantasies and intrusive thinking. ...
  3. Reading into their behavior. ...
  4. Thinking they are perfect. ...
  5. Emotional highs and lows. ...
  6. Fear of rejection. ...
  7. Physical effects.
29 Sept 2021

What is someone desperate for love called? ›

“A hopeless romantic is someone who is more susceptible to falling in love and gets carried away in their romantic feelings,” says Bree Jenkins, dating coach and licensed therapist.

Is Longing same as yearning? ›

A strong longing for something is a yearning for it.

What's a word for happy and sad at the same time? ›

Ambivalence means “feeling both good and bad,” Jeff Larsen, a professor of psychology at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, told me. Feeling bittersweet or nostalgic are common forms of it.

How do you describe feeling lost? ›

confused or bewildered. I feel lost and lonely in a strange town. Synonyms. bewildered.

Why is longing so painful? ›

Our life is constantly presenting us with situations and experiences that we get to filter in any way we choose. Longing can be a miserable and frustrating feeling if we become too focused on what we perceive is lacking. Meaning, getting caught in believing that what we long for is “not” showing up.

What part of speech is saudade? ›

SAUDADE (noun) definition and synonyms | Macmillan Dictionary.

Whats a word for not being happy but not being sad? ›

having or showing little or no emotion: apathetic behavior.

What is the deepest word for sad? ›

Melancholy is beyond sad: as a noun or an adjective, it's a word for the gloomiest of spirits. Being melancholy means that you're overcome in sorrow, wrapped up in sorrowful thoughts.

What causes alexithymia? ›

Alexithymia isn't well understood. There's a possibility it may be genetic. The condition may also be a result of brain damage to the insula. This part of the brain is known for its role in social skills, empathy, and emotions, with some studies linking insula lesions to apathy and anxiety.

What is the feeling of not knowing how you feel called? ›

Alexithymia is when an individual has difficulty identifying, describing, and expressing emotions. This term was coined by Peter Sifneos in 1972, and it comes from the roots of Greek words that literally mean, “lack of words for emotion.”

What do you call an empty feeling? ›

Feeling empty and emotionally numb can be a result of emotional detachment or a syndrome known as depersonalization.

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