Word of The Day for Monday, January 10, 2011


welt•schmerz (VELT-shmerts)  n
often capitalized

1. mental depression or apathy caused by comparison of the actual state of the world with an ideal state
2. sorrow that one feels and accepts as one's necessary portion in life; sentimental pessimism

1864; German, from Welt world + Schmerz pain

Synonyms: angst, anxiety, depression, uneasiness
Related Words: weltanschauung

Sentence Examples:
• Confounded affectation all this Weltschmerz; you have no right to be anything but a happy man. And if you feel out of spirits, it ought to cheer you up simply to go on deck and look at these seven puppies that come frisking and springing about you, and are ready to tear you to pieces in sheer enjoyment of life. -Farthest North, Fridtjof Nansen

• We allow a great deal of this precious stuff—this Welt-Schmerz of which each generation has need—not only to go unutilized, but to work havoc among the young people themselves. -The Spirit of Youth and the City Streets, Jane Addams

• Too much questioning and too little active responsibility lead, almost as often as too much sensualism does, to the edge of the slope, at the bottom of which lie pessimism and the nightmare or suicidal view of life. But to the diseases which reflection breeds, still further reflection can oppose effective remedies; and it is of the melancholy and Weltschmerz bred of reflection that I now proceed to speak.  -The Will to Believe, William James

The Storyline
But the face that she saw when she finally looked up wasn't the one she expected. It was the same person, but altered, changed by a weariness and weltschmerz etched into the lines on his face. "Dad?"

Why This Word:

Weltschmerz (from the German, meaning world-pain or world-weariness), is a term coined by the German author Jean Paul and denotes the kind of feeling experienced by someone who understands that physical reality can never satisfy the demands of the mind. ...It is also used to denote the feeling of sadness when thinking about the evils of the world—compare empathy, theodicy.

The modern meaning of Weltschmerz in the German language is the psychological pain caused by sadness that can occur when realizing that someone's own weaknesses are caused by the inappropriateness and cruelty of the world and (physical and social) circumstances. Weltschmerz in this meaning can cause depression, resignation and escapism, and can become a mental problem. (Wikipedia)

Sources:  Merriam-Webster, Dictionary.com

Word-E: A Word-A-Day

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