Waldeinsamkeit

[vahyd-ahyn-zahm-kahyt]

What does Waldeinsamkeit mean?

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Waldeinsamkeit is a German word that refers to the feeling one has while being alone in the woods, usually a sublime or spiritual one.

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Examples of Waldeinsamkeit

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Examples of Waldeinsamkeit
Devon Strang / Pinterest
Finally found the word for what I felt while Himalayan peaks stared right into my eyes- Waldeinsamkeit. #ParvatiValley
@apjayanthi, July 2016
We're living in a remarkable time, when it will soon be impossible to be truly alone. Waldeinsamkeit becomes more and more endangered with every cell tower. And if you're the kind of person who can only leave email behind when you go off the grid, that means you're going to need a new plan.
Mat Honan, Wired, October 2013

Where does Waldeinsamkeit come from?

Charlotte Grimm / Behance

German is famous for what are sometimes called untranslatables: single words whose definitions are wonderfully specific or complex enough that, when translated into another language, they require numerous words to express the same idea. Waldeinsamkeit is no exception.

It combines Wald (“wood”) and Einsamkeit (“loneliness”). Together, Waldeinsamkeit literally translates to “solitude in the forest,” but that literal translation loses the word’s poetry.

The origins of Waldeinsamkeit clue us into its lyrical meaning. Attested in German by at least 1822, the word is closely associated with Romanticism, a literary movement that idealized emotion, nature, individualism, and the imagination. Early uses of Waldeinsamkeit came from German Romantic poetry that celebrates the quiet serenity of being solitary in the woods.

Tiny Buddha

Waldeinsamkeit made its way into American Transcendentalism, which also praised he spirituality of the individual and nature. In 1858, for instance, Ralph Waldo Emerson published a poem called “Waldeinsamkeit” in The Atlantic Monthly about how much he loved being in the forest, removed from the crises and considerations of society.

Fast forward to the February 5, 2019 episode of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, German-Austrian actor Christoph Waltz quizzed Jimmy Fallon on “long German words,” including Waldeinsamkeit. Amazingly, Fallon correctly guessed the meaning.

Who uses Waldeinsamkeit?

Can’t put into words that spiritual satisfaction you get when you’re alone in nature? Well, Germans can, and it’s Waldeinsamkeit. Note that it’s properly capitalized, as is true for all German nouns.

 

When not used for its literal sense, Waldeinsamkeit is often featured in lists of untranslatable words prized for the way they so poetically package the complexity of human experience into a single word.

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