Word of the Day : January 21, 2012


noun, often capitalized VELT-shmairts


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

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 the 1860s.


As I grew older and encountered more of life's hardships, I found myself plunging into a state of weltschmerz.

"Fortunately books exist -- at least for now -- and reading remains a popular indoor activity, as well as one of the top strategies for avoiding family conflict and general Weltschmerz while creating the appearance of productivity." -- From an article by James Hannaham in The Village Voice, November 23, 2011

Word Family Quiz

What relative of "weltschmerz" means "a comprehensive conception or apprehension of the world especially from a specific standpoint"? The answer is ...


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