The word "saudades" was the the centerpiece of the closing ceremonies of the 2016 Rio Olympics.

It describes a feeling of melancholy or nostalgia not easily translated to English. Its definition in the Houaiss Dictionary of the Portuguese Language (Dicionário Houaiss da Língua Portuguesa, Lisbon, 2003) can be translated as:

saudade A more or less melancholic feeling of incompleteness linked by memory to being deprived of the presence of someone or something, of being separated from a place or thing, or to the absence of certain experiences or pleasures one experienced and considered as desirable by the person in question (often plural) <s. for/of a friend who is now living far way> <s. for/of a dead relative> <saudades for/of the Algarve> <s. for/of eating papaya> <s. of/for the beach> <saudades for/of the homeland> <s. for/of the good times>

One NBC commentator "wish(ed) there was some word in English" to convey its meaning.

  • 2
    If it's so difficult to translate please define the word in a way that doesn't simply point to particular words: "melancholy" "nostalgia". Single word requests should include an example sentence, in which a blank for the desired word is used, that make its meaning clear in context. This site isn't just for people who watched the Rio Olympics or speak Portuguese. Commented Aug 22, 2016 at 2:42
  • Saudade is universally recognized as being particular to Portuguese. Its exact lack in English is matched by most/all? other languages. See the multiple commentaries at 'saudade unique'
    – Mitch
    Commented Aug 22, 2016 at 12:17
  • @Mitch Galician has morriña, which Spanish has adopted, and Asturian has señardá. Commented Sep 24, 2016 at 15:06
  • Do you happen to know if there is an equivalent word in other Romance languages - e.g. Spanish? But perhaps most interesting would be if such a word exists in French, to which English has closer ties.
    – WS2
    Commented Oct 20, 2017 at 18:45
  • I recommend using the word saudade to mean saudade, with an explanation (on first occurrence) of what the word connotes in its Portuguese usage. A similar strategy works well with subtle and complicated terms such as duende (in Spanish) and eidos (in ancient Greek). Any translation involves at some level a simplifying equivalence, since words exist in the incredibly complex milieu of an entire surrounding language; but certain terms are so difficult even in isolation that attempting a one-for-one replacement cannot help but disserve them.
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented Oct 20, 2017 at 20:24

5 Answers 5


Well, you may call me a Philistine if you want to, but I’m a native Portuguese speaker, and to me saudade is just the sadness, which can range from really sad to sweetish, you feel because you can no longer see someone or do something that you like. So maybe there is no single English word for this, but there surely is a single English word for ter saudade de (have/feel saudade for/of) or estar cheio de saudade de (be filled with saudade for/of), which are the most common usage of saudade. The word is miss in the sense of (Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries):

8 [transitive] to feel sad because you can no longer see someone or do something that you like

The Houaiss definition given in the question is quite mind twisting, but the examples that go with it (in my 2003 Portuguese edition) are quite straightforward. I now translate them (I added eu tenho, ‘I have’, to the Portuguese original, which I give in brackets):

  • [I have] saudade for a friend who is now living far way → I miss a friend who…(s. de uma amiga que hoje vive distante)
  • [I have] saudade for a dead relative → I miss a dead relative (s. de um parente falecido)
  • [I have] saudades for the Algarve → I miss the Algarve (saudades do Algarve)

  • [I have] saudade for eating papaya → I miss eating papaya (s. de comer papaia)

  • [I have] saudade for the beach → I miss the beach (s. da praia)

  • [I have] saudades for the homeland → I miss the homeland (saudades da pátria)

  • [I have] saudade for the good times → I miss the good times (s. dos bons tempos)

As for the Rio 2016 Olympics closing ceremony, here’s a headline and my word-for-word and idiomatic translations:

Olimpíada Rio-2016 vai deixar saudade nos cariocas e turistas

Rio 2016 Olympics will leave saudade in cariocas and tourists

Rio 2016 Olympics will be fondly missed by cariocas and tourists.

So that’s all the uniqueness of saudade boils down to: Portuguese speakers use an all-purpose verb, ter (to have), and a special-purpose noun; English may lack an equivalent special-purpose noun, but has a special-purpose verb to express the whole idea. But please, please, don’t tell anyone. There’s an industry out there waxing lyrical about the uniqueness of saudade, and my fellow native Portuguese speakers will crucify me if they get to know I’ve let the secret out.

  • saudade is more sadness due to missing something.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jun 22 at 14:52

Cross-site duplicate. :)

As I report in my answer there, in English you simply have to use multiple words for this heartfelt longing for the greatness of yesteryear to come again.

The Spanish have borrowed the word directly, for it fits well in their mouths and they have no other that means quite the same thing. Unfortunately, it does not fit well in the mouths of most Anglophones. Some know it and use it, but not many.

  • Actually, they do: morriña (which is more commonly used, although to be fair, it's not native — they took it from Galician) Commented Jan 20, 2017 at 22:59

Consider wistful, which means:

Having or showing a feeling of vague or regretful longing.

The nominalization is wistfulness. Here are some example sentences from Oxford:

‘A seasonal wistfulness follows as I remember the faces and places of the Christmases of the past.’

‘She saw a homesickness and wistfulness, and suddenly thought of the Little Mermaid in Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tales, before Disney left its mark on the classic.’

‘My flirting with him represents some wistfulness, nostalgia and regret of those years past.’

‘In contrast to the wistfulness associated with nostalgia, however, the feeling here was one of nervousness, and even desperation.’

This seems like a pretty good fit given your description of the Portuguese concept.

  • Yes, this is the word that came to my mind. It's less far down the bitter-sweet scale than 'melancholy' (in the modern meaning of the latter). But I'm assuming that 'Saudades' can be used as an exclamation, which 'Wistfulness' certainly can't. Commented Sep 22, 2016 at 9:21
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    @Edwin You surely can use it as an exclamation: I haven’t been home for five years. Oh! the saudades! I don’t have a good feel for wistfulness. It looks as though there is considerable overlap, but maybe saudade covers a wider range on the bitter-sweet scale: say, from he lived consumed by saudade for his dead wife to hi, I’m at the airport; I’m dying of saudade (for you/home); can’t wait to getting there. And on the poetic-prosaic scale: she looked at the old photos and smiled rocked by saudade to I have saudade for pie and pint; let’s go down to the pub.
    – Jacinto
    Commented Sep 22, 2016 at 11:58

Desiderium is a close English translation. The below extract from Wikipedia attests:

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. Desiderium comes from the word desiderare, meaning to long for.


In the passage below, perhaps pining (n.) comes close.

pine (v.)

To yearn intensely and persistently especially for something unattainable M-W

To yearn; to languish with desire, to hunger for something; to long eagerly. With for, after, or infinitive. [OED online]

... Portugese notion of saudade that's simmering: the feeling of yearning for something impossible to regain because it never quite existed. It's not quite homesickness or pining for someone loved or once loved, but more a longing, the opposite of the Proustian sense of wistfulness. It's mostly a pleasant feeling, but it can often be too located in the present and future to be practical.
Anik See; Saudade: The Posibilities of Place (2004)

I learned the word when I was introduced to the marvelous set of piano pieces by Darius Milhaud, Saudades do Brasile. The polytonality captures the bittersweet pining.

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