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Hiraeth (Welsh pronunciation: [hɪraɨ̯θ, hiːrai̯θ][1]) is a Welsh word that has no direct English translation. The University of Wales, Lampeter likens it to a homesickness tinged with grief and sadness over the lost or departed, especially in the context of Wales and Welsh culture.[2] It is a mixture of longing, yearning, nostalgia, wistfulness or an earnest desire for the Wales of the past.[3]

The Cornish and Breton equivalents are "hireth"[4] and "hiraezh". It is associated with the German concept of sehnsucht or Portuguese saudade.[5]


Derived from hir and aeth (the past tense of mynd), the word literally means "long gone", and can be found in the earliest Welsh records, including early Welsh poetry, for example an anonymous poet refers to being woken by "cruel hiraeth".[5]


19th century attempts to spread the English language through its exclusive use in schools at the expense of the Welsh language, following the treachery of the Blue Books in 1847, led to an increase in hiraeth.[5] Between 1870 and 1914, approximately 40% of Welsh emigrants returned to Wales, a much higher percentage than the rest of Britain, and it has been claimed that this was due to hiraeth.[5]


  1. ^ "How to pronounce hiraeth". geiriadur.net.
  2. ^ "Hiraeth". Geiriadur Welsh–English / English–Welsh On-line Dictionary. University of Wales Trinity Saint David. Retrieved 2017-04-16.
  3. ^ Boynton, Jessica. "Hiraeth". Eastern Michigan University. Archived from the original on September 12, 2006. Retrieved June 21, 2010.
  4. ^ "Gerlyver Kernewek |". www.cornishdictionary.org.uk.
  5. ^ a b c d Crossley-Baxter, Lily (15 February 2021). "The untranslatable word that connects Wales". BBC. Retrieved 27 February 2021.


  • Williams, Robert (1865), “hiraeth”, in Lexicon Cornu-Britannicum: A Dictionary of the Ancient Celtic Language of Cornwall, in which the Words are elucidated by Copious Examples from the Cornish Works now remaining; With Translations in English, London: Trubner & Co., p. 217

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