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I am thinking that if such a word or phrase existed, that the French, or Germans, or Japanese would have one.

But is there one in English? Is it even appropriate to say one is nostalgic for an era in which they didn't live?

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There is nothing in the specific definition of nostalgia that says it must be about something you have experienced yourself.

[Merriam-Webster]

2 : a wistful or excessively sentimental yearning for return to or of some past period or irrecoverable condition

However, it would be strange to hear somebody say that they are nostalgic for the Victorian era, for instance—simply because they never lived at that time.


A different word that would fit for something you have no direct experience or knowledge of is pine:

[Merriam-Webster]

: to yearn intensely and persistently especially for something unattainable
// they still pined for their lost wealth

In your case:

I am pining to live in the Victorian era.

Or, by extension, you could say:

I am pining for the nostalgia of the Victorian era.

That would mean that while you don't know exactly what it's like to feel nostalgic about it (since you don't have any direct experience of it)—you wish you did.

  • It would make more sense if someone said that they were "nostalgic for the [name some aspect] of the Victorian era." rather than saying they were nostalgic for the VE. And, I don't see how one can pine for nostalgia. One can pine for some lost aspect of the Victoria Era or of the Roman Republic or even of the Upper Paleolithic era. One doesn't have to have direct experience of any lost era to know what one pines for or feels nostalgic about, as long as one has read enough. I'm going to say +1, but this answer can be improved. – ab2 Mar 21 at 0:00
  • @ab2 A man might say, I wish I knew what it felt like to be pregnant. So, it's certainly possible to say that you wish you felt something—even though you don't have direct knowledge of what that feeling is. With nostalgia, you could wish that you were able to miss something because you had experienced it. I know what it feels like to be nostalgic about things I have experienced, so I don't see why I couldn't want to feel nostalgic about things I haven't experienced—even though I know I actually can't, because I haven't experienced them . . . – Jason Bassford Mar 21 at 2:39
  • @ab2 And if people can be nostalgic about the '80s—why not be nostalgic about (or want to be nostalgic about) the Victorian era? Both are just periods in time. – Jason Bassford Mar 21 at 2:40
  • We agree that one can be nostalgic about an era that one hasn't experienced; I just think it is better to say one is nostalgic about a feature or feature of such an era. For example, I might be nostalgic about the pure environment, the uncrowdedness of the Paleolithic, and the closeness to animals, but not about the bathing and excreting arrangements. And I cannot see pining for nostalgia. It is like being nostalgic for having stopped feeling nostalgic. – ab2 Mar 21 at 2:47
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As we know, 'nostalgia' was coined to mean something like homesickness, though enthralment by fond memories of the past is now an accepted meaning. But what if that past is not remembered, but is only read about and imagined? Although 'nostalgia' may be the best word for this, I'd feel a little uneasy about stretching it this far. I want to qualify it. 'Vicarious nostalgia' is not far off being right but is neither pleasing to the ear nor self-explanatory. Perhaps we need a term as weird as the experience itself, like 'nostalgia of the unremembered'.

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