What is the word for mourning something you never had? I'm looking for a word similar to "Schadenfreude" or "Sonder" in that it represents a very specific emotion. You dont get this feeling from an event, but rather from the implications of it. Say for example, your only sibling dies. This feeling comes from realizing you will never be an aunt/uncle, or from realizing you will have to organize your parents' funerals without your sibling's help. You are mourning the kinds of things you didnt know could be taken away from you. Anyone have a word for this emotion?


5 Answers 5


Though a bit broad, the word "melancholia" or "melancholy" can be defined as of a feeling sadness, mournfulness or lamenting with no obvious reason. I think that can include reasons never fulfilled or experienced - deeply rooted unrealized experiences.



I have been searching for an answer to this very question. I frequently feel this when looking at old photos of people I never met. A sort of grief over the loss of person/place/time period I never experienced and am fully aware that I am probably romanticizing. There seem to be several words which swerve near it, but fail to hit the mark. Hiraeth and Saudade each come close with elements of Weltschmerz and Wabi-sabi (which is not an emotion, but an ascetic; but if the ascetic WERE an emotion, it would fit) thrown in. In researching, I came across this post: https://forum.wordreference.com/threads/nostalgia-for-a-place-or-time-youve-never-been-to.1898243/ in which user EStjarn posits Paranostalia as a good potential fit for a newly coined word to mean this, and I agree.

  • After posting this, I came across: Anemoia: Nostalgia For A Time You’ve Never Known- youtube.com/watch?v=wH6ZCIRjI14 which seems to be someone else's attempt to name the same feeling.
    – Mary T
    Commented Mar 3, 2020 at 10:05

Hiraeth? - a Welsh word that has no direct translation

According to Wikipedia, the closest available English translation is homesickness or nostalgia.

Hiraeth (pronounced [hiraɪ̯θ][1]) is a Welsh word which means 'nostalgia', or, more commonly, 'homesickness'. Many Welsh people claim 'hiraeth' is a word which cannot be translated, meaning more than solely "missing something" or "missing home." To some, it implies the meaning of missing a time, an era, or a person. It is associated with the bittersweet memory of missing something or someone, while being grateful of that/ their existence. Hiraeth bears considerable similarities with the Portuguese concept of saudade (a key theme in Fado music), Galician morriña, Romanian dor, Russian toska (тоска), German Sehnsucht and Ethiopian tizita (ትዝታ).

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hiraeth

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    Welcome to English Language & Usage. We like to see answers with solid explanations and authoritative references. Perhaps you could edit your answer to provide more detail and some links to support it? Also, you might want to take the site tour and read through the help center. Commented Aug 31, 2018 at 21:16
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    Bit annoying that it has no direct translation in English! Could you suggest some English words instead? Commented Sep 2, 2018 at 19:51

My suggestion would be

Sorrow which covers both a sense of loss of the subject and the consequences thereof. As defined in 1b from MW

1a : deep distress, sadness, or regret especially for the loss of someone or something loved
b : resultant unhappy or unpleasant state //to their great sorrow they could not marry

I agree the dictionary definition is not a good context for the question so given the above.

For example, your only sibling dies. This sorrow comes from realizing you will never be an aunt/uncle.


Saudade: "A somewhat melancholic feeling of incompleteness." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saudade

Wikipedia cites:

an emotional state of melancholic or profoundly nostalgic longing for a beloved yet absent something or someone. It derives from the Latin word for solitude.[3] It is often associated with a repressed understanding that one might never encounter the object of longing ever again. It is a recollection of feelings, experiences, places, or events, often elusive, that cause a sense of separation from the exciting, pleasant, or joyous sensations they once caused.

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