Saudade (European Portuguese: [sɐwˈðaðɨ], Brazilian Portuguese: [sawˈdadi] or [sawˈdadʒi], Galician: [sawˈðaðe]; plural saudades) is a Portuguese and Galician word that has no direct translation in English. It describes a deep emotional state of nostalgic or profound melancholic longing for an absent something or someone that one loves. Moreover, it often carries a repressed knowledge that the object of longing may never return. A stronger form of saudade may be felt towards people and things whose whereabouts are unknown, such as a lost lover, or a family member who has gone missing.
Saudade was once described as "the love that remains" after someone is gone. Saudade is the recollection of feelings, experiences, places or events that once brought excitement, pleasure, well-being, which now triggers the senses and makes one live again. It can be described as an emptiness, like someone (e.g., one's children, parents, sibling, grandparents, friends, pets) or something (e.g., places, things one used to do in childhood, or other activities performed in the past) that should be there in a particular moment is missing, and the individual feels this absence. It brings sad and happy feelings all together, sadness for missing and happiness for having experienced the feeling.
In Portuguese, "Tenho saudades tuas" (European Portuguese) or "Tenho saudades de você" (Brazilian Portuguese), translates as "I have saudade of you" meaning "I miss you", but carries a much stronger tone. In fact, one can have saudade of someone whom one is with, but have some feeling of loss towards the past or the future.
The word saudade was used in the Cancioneiro da Ajuda (13th century), in the Cancioneiro da Vaticana and by poets of the time of King Denis of Portugal (reigned 1279-1325). Some specialists say the word may have originated during the Great Portuguese Discoveries, giving meaning to the sadness felt about those who departed on journeys to unknown seas and disappeared in shipwrecks, died in battle, or simply never returned. Those who stayed behind—mostly women and children—suffered deeply in their absence. However, the Portuguese discoveries only started in 1415 and since the word has been found earlier this does not constitute a very good explanation. The Reconquista also offers a plausible explanation.
The state of mind has subsequently become a "Portuguese way of life": a constant feeling of absence, the sadness of something that's missing, wishful longing for completeness or wholeness and the yearning for the return of that now gone, a desire for presence as opposed to absence—as it is said in Portuguese, a strong desire to matar as saudades (lit. to kill the saudades).
In the latter half of the 20th century, saudade became associated with the feeling of longing for one's homeland, as hundreds of thousands of Portuguese-speaking people left in search of better futures in South America, North America and Western Europe. Besides the implications derived from a wave of emigration trend from the motherland, historically speaking saudade is the term associated with the decline of Portugal's role in world politics and trade. During the so-called "Golden Age", synonymous with the era of discoveries, Portugal undeniably rose to the status of a world power, and its monarchy became one of the richest in Europe. But with the rise of competition from other European nations, the country went both colonially and economically into a prolonged period of decay. This period of decline and resignation from the world's cultural stage marked the rise of saudade, aptly described by a sentence in Portugal's national anthem: Levantai hoje de novo o esplendor de Portugal (Let us once again lift up the splendour of Portugal).
The Dicionário Houaiss da língua portuguesa defines saudade (or saudades) as "A somewhat melancholic feeling of incompleteness. It is related to thinking back on situations of privation due to the absence of someone or something, to move away from a place or thing, or to the absence of a set of particular and desirable experiences and pleasures once lived."
The Dictionary from the Royal Galician Academy, on the other hand, defines saudade as an "intimate feeling and mood caused by the longing for something absent that is being missed. This can take different aspects, from concrete realities (a loved one, a friend, the motherland, the homeland...) to the mysterious and transcendant. It is quite prevalent and characteristic of the galician-portuguese world, but it can also be found in other cultures."
Saudade is similar but not equal to nostalgia, a word that also exists in Portuguese.
In the book In Portugal of 1912, 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.
A stronger form of saudade may be felt towards people and things whose whereabouts are unknown, such as old ways and sayings; a lost lover who is sadly missed; a faraway place where one was raised; loved ones who have died; feelings and stimuli one used to have; and the faded, yet golden memories of youth. Although it relates to feelings of melancholy and fond memories of things/people/days gone by, it can be a rush of sadness coupled with a paradoxical joy derived from acceptance of fate and the hope of recovering or substituting what is lost by something that will either fill in the void or provide consolation.
As with all emotions, saudade has been an inspiration for many songs and compositions. "Sodade" (saudade in Cape Verdean Creole) is the title of the Cape Verde singer Cesária Évora's most famous song; French singer Étienne Daho also produced a song of the same name. The Good Son, a 1990 album by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, was heavily informed by Cave's mental state at the time, which he has described as saudade. He told journalist Chris Bohn: "When I explained to someone that what I wanted to write about was the memory of things that I thought were lost for me, I was told that the Portuguese word for this feeling was saudade. It's not nostalgia but something sadder."
The usage of saudade as a theme in Portuguese music goes back to the 16th century, the golden age of Portugal. Saudade, as well as love suffering, is a common theme in many villancicos and cantigas composed by Portuguese authors; for example: "Lágrimas de Saudade" (tears of saudade), which is an anonymous work from the Cancioneiro de Paris. Fado is a Portuguese music style, generally sung by a single person (the fadista) along with a Portuguese guitar. The most popular themes of fado are saudade, nostalgia, jealousy, and short stories of the typical city quarters. Fado and saudade are intertwined key ideas in Portuguese culture. The word fado comes from Latin fatum meaning "fate" or "destiny". Fado is a musical cultural expression and recognition of this unassailable determinism which compels the resigned yearning of saudade, a bitter-sweet, existential yearning and hopefulness towards something over which one has no control.
Spanish singer Julio Iglesias, whose father is a Galician, speaks of saudade in his song "Un Canto a Galicia" (which roughly translates as "a song/chant for Galicia"). In the song, he passionately uses the phrase to describe a deep and sad longing for his motherland, Galicia. He also performs a song called "Morriñas", which the describes the Galicians as having a deeply strong saudade.
The Paraguayan guitarist Agustin Barrios wrote several pieces invoking the feeling of saudade, including Choro de Saudade and Preludio Saudade. The term is prominent in Brazilian popular music, including the first bossa nova song, "Chega de Saudade" ("No more saudade", usually translated as "No More Blues"), written by Tom Jobim. Jazz pianist Bill Evans recorded the tune "Saudade de Brasil" numerous times. In 1919, on returning from two years in Brazil, the French composer Darius Milhaud composed a suite, Saudades do Brasil, which exemplified the concept of saudade. "Saudade (Part II)" is also the title of a flute solo by the band Shpongle. The singer Amália Rodrigues typified themes of saudade in some of her songs. J-Rock band Porno Graffitti has a song entitled "サウダージ”, "Saudaaji" transliterated ("Saudade"). The alternative rock band Love And Rockets has a song named "Saudade" on their album Seventh Dream of Teenage Heaven. June 2012 brought Bearcat's release of their self-titled indie album that included a song called "Saudade".
The Dutch jazz/rock guitarist Jan Akkerman recorded a composition called "Saudade", the centerpiece of his 1996 album Focus In Time. The jazz fusion group Trio Beyond, consisting of John Scofield, Jack DeJohnette, and Larry Goldings released in 2006 an album dedicated to drummer Tony Williams (1945–1997), called Saudades. Dance music artist Peter Corvaia released a progressive house track entitled "Saudade" on HeadRush Music, a sub-label of Toes in the Sand Recordings. New York City post-rock band Mice Parade released an album entitled Obrigado Saudade in 2004. Chris Rea also recorded a song entitled "Saudade" as a tribute to Ayrton Senna the Brazilian three-times Formula One world champion killed on the track. There is an ambient/noise/shoegazing band from Portland, Oregon, named Saudade. The rock band Extreme has a Portuguese guitarist Nuno Bettencourt; the influence of his heritage can be seen in the band's album Saudades de Rock. During recording, the mission statement was to bring back musicality to the medium. "Nancy Spain", a song by Barney Rush, made famous by an adaptation by Christy Moore, is another example of the use of saudade in contemporary Irish music, the chorus of which is:
"No matter where I wander I'm still haunted by your name
The portrait of your beauty stays the same
Standing by the ocean wondering where you've gone
If you'll return again
Where is the ring I gave to Nancy Spain?"
There was also a multi-artist compilation of music in the late 1990s, released in the US as an introduction to Brazilian music, entitled Saudade.
There is a Spanish pop-rock group called Saudade.
Saudade is also associated with Galicia, where it is used similarly to the word morriña (longingness). Yet, morriña often implies a deeper stage of saudade, a "saudade so strong it can even kill," as the Galician saying goes. Morriña was a term often used by emigrant Galicians when talking about the Galician motherland they left behind. Although saudade is also a Galician word, the meaning of longing for something that might return is generally associated with morriña. A literary example showing the understanding of the difference and the use of both words is the song Un canto a Galicia by Julio Iglesias. The word used by Galicians speaking Spanish has spread and become common in all Spain and even accepted by the Academia.
In northern Portugal, morrinha is a regional word to describe sprinkles, while morrinhar means "to sprinkle." (The most common Portuguese equivalents are chuvisco and chuviscar, respectively.) Morrinha is also used in this region for referring to sick animals, for example of sheep dropsy, and occasionally to sick or sad people, often with irony. It is also used in some Brazilian regional dialects for the smell of wet or sick animals. In Goa, India, which was a Portuguese colony until 1961, some Portuguese influences are still retained. A suburb of Margão, Goa's largest city, has a street named Rua de Saudades. It was aptly named because that very street has the Christian cemetery, the Hindu shmashana (cremation ground) and the Muslim qabrastan (cemetery). Most people living in the city of Margão who pass by this street would agree that the name of the street could not be any other, as they often think fond memories of a friend, loved one, or relative whose remains went past that road. The word saudade takes on a slightly different form in Portuguese-speaking Goan families for whom it implies the once-cherished but never-to-return days of glory of Goa as a prized possession of Portugal, a notion since then made redundant by the irrevocable cultural changes that occurred with the end of the Portuguese regime in these parts. In Cape Verdean Creole there is the word sodadi (also spelled sodade), originated in the Portuguese saudade and exactly with the same meaning.
Similar words in other languages
There are other words in other languages with similar meaning. Depending on the context, saudade can relate to the feeling of nostalgia or melancholy (melancolia in Portuguese), in which one feels an interior satisfaction because it is impossible to find something, but one never stops thinking that one is searching for it. It is an incompleteness that one unconsciously wants to never completely resolve. Saudade relates to the French regret, in which one feels a hard sentiment, but in a nostalgic sense. Saudade relates to the Spanish añorar, which is defined by the Real Academia Española as "remembering with sadness the absence, deprivation or loss of someone or something loved". The word can also translate into the Spanish expression echar de menos, or extrañar—roughly equivalent to the Portuguese ter saudades: missing something or someone.
The Greek word closest to saudade is νοσταλγία ("nostalgia"). Nostalgia also appears in the Portuguese language as in the many other languages with an Indo-European origin, bearing the same meaning of the Greek word "νοσταλγία". There is yet another word that, like saudade, has no immediate translation in English: λαχτάρα (lakhtara). This word encompasses sadness, longing and hope, as does the term saudade.
In Albanian, a direct translation of saudade is the word mall, which encompasses feelings of passionate longing, sadness, and at the same time an undefined laughter from the same source. Other variations which give different nuances to this word are: përmallim, përmallje, etc.
In the Torlak dialect of Bulgarian, spoken today in the easternmost part of Serbia and the remote southern mountains of Kosovo, there is an expression which corresponds more closely to the Japanese and Greek examples below, but can be compared to saudade in the broader sense of longing for the past. It is жал за младос(т) / žal za mlados(t) i.e., "yearning for one's youth." (Since the dialect has not been standardised as a written language it has various forms.) The term and the concept have been popularised in standard Serbian through short prose and plays by Vranje born fin-de-siècle writer Borisav Stanković.
The Bosnian language has a term for the same type of feeling, sevdah, which comes from the Turkish term sevda via Arabic sawda, which in Turkish means "black bile." Given the term's Arabic origins, some argue that the two words may be derived from the same source. In Bosnian language, the term sevdah represents pain and longing for a loved one. Sevdah is also a genre of traditional music originating from Bosnia and Herzegovina. Sevdah songs are very elaborate, emotionally charged and are traditionally sung with passion and fervor.
One translation of saudade into German is Wehmut (in Dutch weemoed), a fuzzy form of nostalgia; or Weltschmerz, which is the general pain caused by an imperfect state of being or state of the world. The German word Sehnsucht, generally translated as "yearning" or "craving" deals with a deep, bittersweet sense of something lost, missing, or unattainable. Sehnsucht can also have a more positive, goal-oriented connotation; an "aspirational saudade" that may drive one to reclaim, pursue or define the absent something.
In the Romanian language, the word dor (from Vulgar Latin dolus < Latin dolere 'to hurt') bears a close meaning to saudade. It can also stand for "love" and "desire", it has the same deeply nostalgic dimension of longing, yearning and loving. It has a derivation in the noun dorinţă and the verb dori, both of them being translated usually by "wish" and "to wish".
Saudade is said to be the only exact equivalent of the Welsh hiraeth and the Cornish hireth. It connotes homesickness tinged with grief or sadness over the lost or departed. Esperanto borrows the word directly, changing the spelling to accommodate Esperanto grammar, as saŭdado.
In English, the verb "to pine": to pine for somebody, something or some place that you miss deeply, to wish you could be there or have it again. A nostalgic yearning for something that may no longer exist, melancholic, fatalist overtone that the object of longing may never return.
The Slovenian language has a large number of words expressing the feeling of 'longing' hrepeneti, koprneti, pogrešati (literally to miss someone), nostalgija, melanholija. The verb koprneti and thereof derived noun koprnenje are the closest translations to embrace the fatalistic undertones of saudade.
The Finnish language has a word whose meaning corresponds very closely with saudade: kaiho. Kaiho means a state of involuntary solitude in which the subject feels incompleteness and yearns for something unattainable or extremely difficult and tedious to attain. Ironically, the sentiment of kaiho is central to the Finnish tango, in stark contrast to the Argentine tango, which is predominantly sensuous. Kaiho has religious connotations in Finland as well, since the large Lutheran sect called the Awakening (Finnish herännäiset, or körttiläiset more familiarly) consider central to their faith a certain kaiho towards Zion, as expressed in their central book Siionin Virret (Hymns of Zion). However, saudade does not involve tediousness. Rather, the feeling of saudade accentuates itself: the more one thinks about the loved person or object, the more one feels saudade. The feeling can even be creative, as one strives to fill in what is missing with something else or to recover it altogether.
In Korean, keurium (그리움) is probably closest to saudade. It reflects a yearning for anything that has left a deep impression in the heart—a memory, a place, a person, etc.
In Mongolian, betgerekh (бэтгэрэх) is closest to saudade. A feeling where a person misses something or someone very deeply, such as a soldier missing his homeland. It can be categorised as a mental illness.
In Japan, saudade expresses a concept similar to the Japanese word natsukashii. Although commonly translated as "dear, beloved, or sweet," in modern conversational Japanese natsukashii can be used to express a longing for the past. It connotes both happiness for the fondness of that memory and goodness of that time, as well as sadness that it is no longer. It is an adjective for which there is no fitting English translation. It can also mean "sentimental," and is a wistful emotion. The character used to write natsukashii can also be read as futokoro 懐 [ふところ] and means "bosom," referring to the depth and intensity of this emotion that can even be experienced as a physical feeling or pang in one's chest—a broken heart or a heart feeling moved.
In Armenian, saudade is represented by կարոտ (karot), which describes the deep feeling of missing of something or somebody.
In Arabic, the word وجد (wajd) means a state of transparent sadness caused by the memory of a loved one who is not near; it is widely used in ancient Arabic poetry to describe the state of the lover's heart as he or she remembers the long-gone love. It is a mixed emotion of sadness for the loss, and happiness for having loved that person.
In Turkish, the feeling of saudade is somewhat similar to hüzün. Its position in Turkey is similar to saudade in Portugal in that it is a melancholic feeling popular in art and culture following the fall of a great empire. However, hüzün is closer to melancholy and depression in that it is associated with a sense of failure in life and lack of initiative.
The closest word to saudade in Indonesian is galau — a feeling or mood in which the person who has it feels sad and usually misses someone. It is often used by the Indonesian youth today and, although the word itself may be caused by various things (such as failing an exam), the most common causes are love-related, such as missing someone. Often, the person who is feeling it is nostalgic as well. It can last for hours, but it is almost always temporary.
In Hebrew, saudade can be translated as Ergah ערגה, which means yearning/longing/desire coupled with deep sadness.
- Saudade: The Culture and Security of Eurasians in Southeast Asia by Antonio L Rappa Ethos Books and the Singapore Management University's Wee Kim Wee Centre, 2013.
- (Portuguese) Lourcenço, Eduardo. (1999) Mitologia da saudade (Seguido de Portugal como destino). São Paulo: Companhia das Letras . ISBN 85-7164-922-7
- (Portuguese) Ribeiro, Bernardim (Torrao, ~1482 - Lisboa, ~1552). Livro das Saudades.
- Dicionário Priberam da Língua Portuguesa
- Bell, A. F. (1912) In Portugal. London and New York: The Bodley Head. Quoted in Emmons, Shirlee and Wilbur Watkins Lewis (2006) Researching the Song: A Lexicon. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, p. 402.
- Basto, Cláudio. "Saudade em português e galego". Revista Lusitana, Vol XVII, Livraria Clássica Editora, Lisboa 1914.
- Dicionário Houaiss da língua portuguese (Brazilian Portuguese Dictionary).
- morriña in the Spanish-language Diccionario de la Real Academia.
- "RAE añorar". Real Academia Española. Retrieved January 9, 2013.
- Williams, Robert. Lexicon Cornu-britannicum. p. 217.
- (Portuguese) Aprenda algumas palavras e frases em esperanto - Veja.com
- Tamil Lexicon. Chennai: University of Madras. 1924-1936. p. 2396.
- Aesthetics of Saudade - Essay comprising the major theories and explaining the doubts surrounding the translation of saudade
- "BBC Brasil": Saudade is the 7th most difficult word to translate (in Portuguese), London: BBC, June 23, 2004.