Saudade – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Have you ever tasted something that reminds you so desperately of a person or place from your childhood? Maybe certain scents bring to mind thoughts of home or happiness?

Did you know there is a term for this longing? This feeling of longing is what is referred to as saudade.

This post unpacks the meaning and origin of this expression.

Meaning

Saudade is a Portuguese word that means to have deep feelings of longing for a person or place due to something that invokes their memory. It is simultaneously a feeling of happiness and sadness and the closest English word is bittersweet. To be saudade is to yearn for something from your past in a way that both invokes feelings of great nostalgia and great sadness.

Saudade is an important Portuguese word culturally and artistically. It is a hard feeling to translate to English, and thus is probably why we took the word from Portugal instead of coming up with an English equivalent.

Even nostalgia, while very similar in meaning to saudade has one important difference: when longing for something that is nostalgic, there is no way that thing will ever return, whereas longing for something in the way we feel saudade, there is a possibility of the person or place or thing returning to us. More information can be found in the video (here).

Example Usage

“This poem has a poignant feeling of saudade”

“When I taste grandma’s baked bean recipe, I am hit with an incredible feeling of saudade.”

“I experience saudade every time I think about him and what could have been.”

“Watching the sun come up over the water gives me such deep feelings of saudade”.

“Every time I see a field of flowers on a rainy day, I am filled with such immense saudade”.

Origin

The word saudade was first seen sometime around 1910 in Portugal. It is derived from the Latin word “solitat” which literally means loneliness or solitude. In English, the first recorded use of the word saudade was in 1912 in a book by a Portuguese scholar. While this word does not appear to be widely used by most American’s, it is now in our dictionaries, and is a word we all can relate to.

For Portugal, the term saudade has a more cultural importance. Since the 1800’s, it has become a crucial part of their literature and music. There is even a music genre in Portugal termed “Fado” that encompasses only songs the have feeling of saudade in them!

Phrases Similar to Saudade

  • Bittersweet
  • Nostalgia
  • Desire
  • Longing
  • Melancholy

Phrases Opposite to Saudade

  • Thoughtless
  • Cheerful
  • Untroubled
  • Heartwarming
  • Ecstatic

What is the Correct Saying?

  • Saudade- to have a longing for something in the past or future, that may or may not come back or come to fruition.

Ways People May Incorrectly Say Saudade

Saudade could be a confusing word for those of us that have never heard the word before or don’t speak Portuguese. The first time I heard it, all I could think about was that book “Where the Crawdads Sing” and since I never read that book, I thought maybe it was called  “Where the Saudads Sing,” thinking to myself, “Maybe it means something about crawfish?” This anecdote aside, you probably did not think this the first time you saw the word saudade. It is more likely that you may not know how to use it in a sentence as it is a noun, but due to it being a Portuguese word, you may not realize it is a noun, thus using it as a verb in your sentences.

Some ways that saudade is used incorrectly are:

  • I saudade the feeling of eating my grandmother’s bean recipe.
  • I have saudade when I think on my childhood.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase Saudade

  • I have a feeling of saudade when I think on my childhood.
  • Eating chili on a winter night gives me feelings of saudade as I think of home.

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