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  • Hiraeth

    Hiraeth Meaning

    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. It brings together the feelings of homesickness, nostalgia and longing or an earnest desire for the Wales of the past. 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".

    Hiraeth - Hiraeth Meaning - Homesickness and Nostalgia - Coming home to Wales - Severn Bridge
    Hiraeth - Homesickness, Nostalgia, Coming Home over the Severn Bridge - More Useful Welsh words, phrases and sayings, click here...


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    Hiraeth Examples

    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 Definition

    Hiraeth, commonly is translated as "homesickness" but it is more than that. It means a deep sense of longing, a yearning for that which has past, a sense of homesickness tinged with grief or sorrow over the lost or departed.

    One attempt to describe hiraeth in English says that it is “a longing to be where your spirit lives.” This description makes some sense out of the combination of words that describe this feeling. The place where your spirit feels most at home may be a physical location that you can return to at any time, or it may be more nostalgic of a home, not attached to a place, but a time from the past that you can only return to by revisiting old memories. Maybe your spirits home could even be neither of the above, one from which you are not only separated by space


    Thoughts of Home - Feelings of Hiraeth

    Everyone will have different thoughts of home but here are five iconic Welsh images (including the main image above) ...

    • Pont Hafren (Severn Bridge), coming home to Wales over the Severn bridge
    • Yr Wyddfa - Wales' highest mountain
    • St Dwynwen (Patron Saint of Lovers) and Llanddwyn Island
    • Cardiff, Capital city of Wales and Cardiff Castle
    • St David's city, home of the Patron Saint of Wales


    Hiraeth - Yr Wyddfa  Hiraeth - Ynys Llanddwyn - Llanddwyn Island - Ynys Môn St Dwynwen  Hiraeth - Cardiff, Capital City of Wales - Cardiff Castle  Hiraeth - St David's City - Ty Ddewi


    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


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    Last updated 29th September 2023

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