Revista Væranda

Every language has its own unique terms that have no equal in other languages. One of these untranslatable words is the term saudade, a Portuguese and Galician word. Suadade is often described as an emotional state of nostalgia or longing, usually with a melancholic tinge. There is sometimes an association with solitude or loneliness that comes with this word. The object of saudade can be a variety of things, from a past lover, a feeling, a hope that cannot be fulfilled, to a place or memory. It is understood that one can have saudade for even an event or thing that has never and possibly will never come to pass.

One definition from the book In Portugal of 1912, the author A. F. G. Bell writes:

The famous saudade of the Portuguese is a vague and constant desire for something that does not and probably cannot exist, for something other than the present, a turning towards the past or towards the future; not an active discontent or poignant sadness but an indolent dreaming wistfulness.

While there is some debate about the exact origin of the word, saudade is commonly thought to be derived from the Latin word solitate/solitās meaning solitude. Some suggest that there might also be some influence from the Portuguese verb saudar (to greet). The word was written in 13th-century poetry. Some argue that the word might stem from the longing for those explorers lost at sea, however, this is often disregarded because the beginning of the Portuguese conquests didn’t start until the beginning of the 15th century.

Saudade is often used to describe and inspire music. One musical genre called Fado is said to be characterized by the feeling of saudade. Fado, stemming from the Latin word fatum for fate, is typically sung by one person accompanied by a Portuguese guitar, which has 12 rather than 6 strings.

Similarly, saudade also inspired a literary movement called Saudosismo in the early 20th century. Saudosismo was founded in 1912 after the recent end of a monarchy that had lasted centuries. Due to the feelings of uncertainty during this transitional period from a monarchy to a republic, Saudosismo was centered around a revival of Portuguese culture and a return to the past grandeur of the Age of Discoveries, during which many European countries explored and colonized a great number of newly discovered (though not necessarily uninhabited) lands.

While saudade is not directly translatable in English, there are other languages which have words with the exact meaning of suadade. In Galicia, saudade is also used, along with another word morriña which is an even stronger form of saudade. In Cape Verde, the Creole word sodadi or sodade is also used, originating from the Portuguese saudade.

Nadia Fontes Merz

Nadia Fontes Merz

Nadia is a 3rd year student studying computer science and visual arts. She grew up in rural Pennsylvania, but her interest in learning Portuguese stems from her grandparents, who were born and raised in Madeira and the Azores. In her free time she likes to read and try the oddest coffee flavors she can find and/or make.