weltschmerz

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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

weltschmerz was our Word of the Day on 01/21/2012. Hear the podcast!

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


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