saudade

[ soh-dah-duh ]
/ soʊˈdɑ də /

noun

(in Portuguese folk culture) a deep emotional state of melancholic longing for a person or thing that is absent: the theme of saudade in literature and music.

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Origin of saudade

First recorded in 1910–15; from Portuguese: literally, “yearning,” from Latin sōlitāt-, stem of sōlitās “loneliness, solitude” (Latin -l- between vowels is lost in Portuguese); the original Old Portuguese soidade was changed to saudade by association with saudar “to greet” (see salute1)
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020

HOMEWORK HELP

What does saudade mean?

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. Melancholy means sad, and yearning is a strong, persistent longing or desire, especially for something unattainable. In Portuguese literature and music, saudade is used as a theme or a motif, which is a recurring subject, idea, or element in an artistic work.

Saudade is most often discussed in terms of its importance to Portuguese culture and for the supposed difficulty in translating it to English.

Saudade translation and explanation

You know those so-called “untranslatable” words people are always talking about? Well, there’s no exact English equivalent for saudade, which is probably why we just ended up taking the word from Portuguese without changing it. The first record of its use in English is from author Aubrey FitzGerald Bell, a scholar of Portuguese culture, in his 1912 book In Portugal. In it, he says: “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.”

Wistfulness means “a state of melancholy or yearning,” and it may be the closest synonym to saudade that we have in English. The “turning towards the past” that Bell talks about sounds similar to nostalgia (“a sentimental yearning to return to a former place or time”), but there’s a difference. Nostalgia is a longing for something that is gone forever, but saudade is much more open-ended: the longing is for something that may—or may not—return.

In the 1800s, Portuguese poets like António Nobre heavily incorporated a sense of saudade into their lyrical poems, helping to make saudade a lasting part of the national character. That tradition continues today in Portuguese literature and music, and saudade is often mentioned in songs or even used as the title.

Both the word and the idea have found their way into the English language. If you find yourself constantly thinking about “the one that got away” or feeling a sadness about something you’ve lost, you might be experiencing saudade. But at least you have a word to describe how you feel.

Did you know ... ?

Saudade is what is known as a loanword, meaning “a word that has been borrowed from another language.”

What are real-life examples of saudade?

The sense of longing that saudade refers to is a prominent theme in all kinds of Portuguese art and is considered one of the main themes of Portuguese musical genre known as fado, sometimes called “Portuguese blues.”

 

 

What other words are related to saudade?

Quiz yourself!

True or false?

When experiencing saudade, a person can be longing or yearning for a person.