Useful Words: Hiraeth

Mount Snowdon in North Wales

I ran across the word in a review in the Times Literary Supplement (TLS). Hiraeth is a Welsh term meaning a longing for something that can’t be recovered. Like, for instance, one’s youth; the ten-year-old ball point pen I lost at the Los Angeles Central Library; my friends who have passed on; my 1997 Nissan Pathfinder that was declared totaled by the insurance company for a damaged passenger door; and my first love.

There is something inexpressibly lyrical about certain terms in the Welsh and Anglo-Saxon languages. The following snippet comes from a lament for Hywel ab Owein, a prince of North Wales:

Since Hywel is gone, who bore battle gladly, by whom we used to stand, we are all avowedly lost, and the host of Heaven is the fairer.

Come what may of wealth from land domain, yet this world is a deceptive dwelling-place; with a spear Hywel the Tall, the hawk of war, was pierced.