Quantcast
Merriam-Webster Logo
  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
  • Scrabble
  • Spanish Central
  • Learner's Dictionary

weltschmerz

play
noun, often capitalized welt·schmerz \ˈvelt-ˌshmerts\

Definition of weltschmerz

  1. 1 :  mental depression or apathy caused by comparison of the actual state of the world with an ideal state

  2. 2 :  a mood of sentimental sadness



Did You Know?

The word weltschmerz initially came into being as a by-product of the Romanticism movement in Europe of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The poets of the Romantic era were a notably gloomy bunch, unwilling or unable to adjust to those realities of the world that they perceived as threatening their right to personal freedom. "Weltschmerz," which was formed by combining the German words for "world" ("Welt") and "pain" ("Schmerz"), aptly captures the melancholy and pessimism that often characterized the artistic expressions of the era. The term was coined in German by the Romantic author Jean Paul (pseudonym of Johann Paul Friedrich Richter) in his 1827 novel Selina, but it wasn't adopted into English until nearly 50 years later.

Origin and Etymology of weltschmerz

German, from Welt world + Schmerz pain


First Known Use: 1864


Learn More about weltschmerz


Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up weltschmerz? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

a jerking and twitching of the body

Get Word of the Day daily email!

WORD GAMES

Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!

two-chairs-on-a-pier-by-the-ocean-in-summer

Which of the following words means “of or relating to summer”?

estival hiemal brumal vernal
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

TAKE THE QUIZ
SCRABBLE® Sprint

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ