‘Saudade’, the untranslatable word for missing something or someone…

Hoje, eu sinto Saudade. I believe it’s related to our constant nomadic mode, moving every so often… I miss a place and a time that may not exist anymore… But please, don’t get me wrong! It’s not a ‘sad feeling’ – I live the happiest life I could’ve asked for: the dearest husband, my loving kids, pursuing our dreams…

It’s one of my favorite words in Portuguese – ‘saudade’. It’s an expression with a lot of emotion and deep sense of compassion. There’s no comparison to this word in English; and definitely, doesn’t carry the same degree of emotion involved… Few other languages have a word with such meaning, making saudade a distinct mark of Portuguese culture.

saudade

Hoje, eu sinto Saudade. I believe it’s related to our constant nomadic mode, moving every so often… I miss a place and a time that may not exist anymore… But please, don’t get me wrong! It’s not a ‘sad feeling’ – I live the happiest life I could’ve asked for: the dearest husband, my loving kids, pursuing our dreams…

We’re on the ‘home stretch’ right now: less than 3 months to depart post… again… pack-out… again… Today I realized I’m a bit tired of this, but I also know that, with a little time to adjust [again!], it’ll all be fine, at last. But right now, I’m feeling saudade… and we haven’t even left yet! What a crazy feeling,  crazy lifestyle… and right now I’m asking myself: ‘why did we decide to do this?’ And I know there are no answers for this rhetorical question – once you join or decide to move along with this Foreign Service life, you’ve signed off on all the perks, advantages and challenges that come along with it – and we did sign it… and we’ve read thru the fine print… and we’ve discussed the pros and cons… But, although we’re extremely satisfied with our life choices, today… I feel Saudade… Saudade of a stable lifestyle… saudade of a time we didn’t have to move, change, adapt and adjust… Saudade of not having to tell our children they’ll have to leave their school friends behind, and should be excited for making new ones… at the new school… speaking a new language…

Oh well, thanks to my dear Portuguese language, I’m able to express my current feelings using one single word – and not bother trying to clearly translate it – “Saudade” – my March 11, 2014 pure self!

English: Robert Plutchik's Wheel of Emotions
Robert Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s one of my favorite words in Portuguese – ‘saudade‘. It’s an expression with a lot of emotion and deep sense of compassion. There’s no comparison to this word in English; and definitely, doesn’t carry the same degree of emotion involved… Few other languages have a word with such meaning, making saudade a distinct mark of Portuguese culture.

Olavo Bilac
Olavo Bilac (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Considering I went deep into my thoughts, I went out looking for ‘ closer definitions’ of this unique feeling, which according to my father’s quote of Olavo Bilac, ‘represents the presence of the ones who are absent..‘. I simply love this quote, since I was a child. Back then, and still living in Brazil, I couldn’t really perceive the true meaning of his words – ‘how can somebody/something be present, and yet, absent?‘How could I miss something I’d never experienced before?’

Saudade
Saudade (Photo credit: Fábio Pinheiro)

Today, as a grown woman, I understand my dad’s words, and they’ve become a part of who I am, and how I carry myself through life. I need to feel ‘Saudade‘, it’s a requirement to keep living, we all need to be linked to our past, and we need to long for people, moments, places and emotions that were part of our development as humans. Saudade makes us more humane, more grounded, more prompt to learn through our emotions…

Saudade
Saudade (Photo credit: A Sheep in Man’s Clothing)

So now, going into the ‘formal definitions’: the Urban Dictionary describes the word as used to “explain the feeling of missing something or someone. It is used to tell about something that you used to have (and liked) but don’t have anymore”.

(Portuguese: “yearning“), Saudade was a characteristic of the earliest Portuguese folk poetry and has been cultivated by sophisticated writers of later generations. 

Missing Naples
Photo credit: Wikipedia

“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.” (In Portugal, by AFG Bell, 1912).

Chega de Saudade (album)
Chega de Saudade (album) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Portuguese word ‘saudademeans, broadly, to miss someone or something. But the English miss doesn’t begin to convey the intensity of the Portuguese word. It can cover the sentiments understood in words such as “longing” and “yearning,” as well as “homesickness” and “nostalgia”; in fact, it is all of those, and many more. Although saudade first appeared in Portugal somewhere around the 15th century, there is something about it that is particularly suited to Portugal’s New World child, Brazil, where I come from. Everything there, including feelings, is intense. We [Brazilians] never say “I love you” casually.

In Brazil, when you say it, it means a lot.

And, then, you feel saudade… 😮

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Author: 3rdCultureChildren

Welcome! Here I am, 'releasing' my thoughts on traveling, parenting, raising TCKs, teaching, writing, working... and who knows what else! I’m a WIFE, 'geeky-stuff' SCIENTIST, TEACHER, AUTHOR, (aspiring) AMATEUR photographer, MOM of 3, TRAVELER by choice and by marriage, and of course, a HOUSEHOLD QUEEN!!

27 thoughts on “‘Saudade’, the untranslatable word for missing something or someone…”

  1. My son has a knack and fascination with different languages, so I will share this post with him! Language conveys so much more than just a method of basic communication, as your post reflects. The subtleties of different languages, the reflections of different cultures within the words, all so fascinating.

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    1. Feel free to share with your son, Kat… If I’m not mistaken, he’s also the one interested in traveling, and maybe this hectic life of the foreign service? 😮 I’m so glad you enjoyed the post… it’s a word full of meaning, which carries a lot of emotions… Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts over here… 😮

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      1. George Wash U is one of his top interest schools, but competes with the idea of attending a smaller DIII school so he can continue to run cross-country or track — ahh, what wonderful decisions to have on one’s plate!

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    1. Concordo plenamente! E que bom, poder escrever em Portugues!!! A minha lingua materna, mas tao esquecida na minha vida diaria, devido ao trabalho em comunicacao em Espanhol em Ingles – trabalho e comunidade americana.
      Thank you very much for taking the time to stop by, and please, let me know if you have any ‘language preference’ for the upcoming posts – really glad to help! Take care, Raquel.

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        1. Sou brasileira, de nascimento. Minha mae, tambem nascida no Brasil, vem de familia portuguesa. E nossa familia [marido, filhos] vivemos em Maputo por 3 anos. Nossa filha do meio nasceu na Africa do Sul, em Pretoria, enquanto estamos servindo em Mocambique… Bom saber que existem outros ‘falantes de Portugues’ por aqui! Muito bem-vindo! 😮

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            1. Eu que agradeco a visita e os comentarios! Sinta-se a vontade para compartilhar o post e o conteudo. Desculpas antecipadas pela falta de ‘acentos’ – meu teclado nao esta adaptado ao Portugues, infelizmente! 😮

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    1. Obviously, I’m totally bias! It’s my first language, and despite spending my work days between my second and third languages [English & Spanish], I do long for my good old Portuguese 😮 The true meaning of “Saudade”! 😮 Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts over here – much appreciated!

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