Hiraeth is a beautiful and complex Welsh word that doesn't have a single, perfect English translation. It is usually translated as "homesickness" but It has a greater meaning. It captures a deep, bittersweet feeling of longing and nostalgia that goes beyond simply missing a place or person. It encompasses a sense of melancholy and wistfulness for a past that can't be recaptured.
Hiraeth Meaning - Combines Nostalgia, Homesickness and Longing...
Hiraeth is a Welsh word that is in every-day use today, but which doesn't easily translate into English.
Hiraeth often described as nostalgia or a deep longing for a place or time that may never have existed, or that may have existed only in one's memories or imagination. Hiraeth is a pull on the heart that conveys a distinct feeling of missing something irretrievably lost – a unique blend of place, time and people that can never be recreated. The word Hiraeth has a complex and nuanced meaning and is an important part of Welsh culture and identity.
Hiraeth, Used in English Untranslated
Hiraeth is a word in everyday use in the Welsh but also the English language. Perhaps because of the translation difficulty, it is also one of a few Welsh words that is commonly used in the English language, untranslated like "bach" and "cwtch".
Other "Welsh for" Pages
Whilst it is difficult to translate hiraeth, here are some examples that put the word into context.
A person who has moved away from their hometown and feels homesick for it.
A person who has lost a loved one and feels a deep sense of longing for them.
A person who is nostalgic for their childhood and wishes they could go back in time.
A person who is deeply connected to their culture and feels a sense of loss when they see it changing.
A person who is passionate about a particular hobby or interest and feels a sense of loss when they can no longer pursue it.
A person who is deeply connected to nature and feels a sense of loss when they see it being destroyed.
Hiraeth, How to Pronounce
As it is often used in the English language, it is a common question to ask how to pronounce it – try saying “here-ayeth” and you won't be far away! Interestingly there is an equivalent word in Cornish and Breton languages (other Celtic languages) “hireth” in Cornish and “hiraezh” in Breton.
Hiraeth in a Sentence
Here are five examples of how the word hiraeth is used in a sentence.
"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".
"She felt the pain of hiraeth as she looked at the old photos of her hometown."
"Although he had moved far away, the sight of autumn leaves falling in the park triggered a powerful sense of hiraeth, making him miss the simple moments of his youth".
"The handwritten letters from her grandparents brought a bittersweet wave of hiraeth, connecting her to the generations before and their stories of the past".
"Listening to the traditional folk songs of her homeland filled her heart with hiraeth, making her yearn for the distant hills and familiar accents".
Hiraeth in Welsh Songs and Poetry
There are many examples of the word hiraeth being used in English language songs and poetry but almost certainly the most famous is in the Welsh song, “We’ll keep a welcome”. It was composed by Mai Jones, born in Newport, Gwent, (6th February 1899 – 7th May 1960).
In 1940, Mai collaborated with lyricists Lyn Joshua and James Harper to create the now world-famous Welsh song "We’ll Keep a Welcome". Whilst an entirely English language song, it uses the word hiraeth to describe the longing to be back home in Wales, as follows.
This land of song will keep a welcome And with a love that never fails We'll kiss away each hour of hiraeth When you come home again to Wales
Located in Pembrokeshire Wales, our ethos is defined in the three words...