n. Sadness over the evils of the world, especially as an expression of romantic pessimism.

If there’s one thing I love, it’s pretentious German words. This synonym for “world-weariness” is a combination of the German Welt, meaning “world” and schmerz, meaning “pain”; literally, “world-pain.” It’s taken directly from the German word, which is usually capitalized, and was first coined by Jean Paul Richter in 1810. I, personally, learned it from David Foster Wallace.

Add it to your list of foreign phrases that sound much cooler than their clumsy English equivalents.

§1288 · August 2, 2006 · Tags: ·

1 Comment to “Wednesday’s Word: weltschmerz”

  1. […] Since last week we had a pretentious German word, this week we will have a pretentious Latin phrase that I used several times in my last research paper. Prima facie (pronounced “pry-muh fah-shee”) has several meanings, but the most common is “at first glance” or “superficially,” and that is the context in which I use it. […]

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