German word of the day: Das Fernweh

Today’s word of the day is one that is quite common throughout the winter months.

Published: Thu 29 Dec 2022 15:01 CEST
German word of the day: Das Fernweh

Outside it’s cold and grey, probably rainy and snowy – and you find yourself longing for some sun.

You start thinking about your last summer holiday in Spain, about the golden beaches and the warm winds. The German language has a word for that feeling: Fernweh.

Literally translated it means “far-woe,” more figuratively: A longing for distant places. There are other, more poetic definitions of the word as well, one being “homesick for a place you’ve never been.” Homesick is a word we all know (in German: Das Heimweh), and Fernweh is the exact opposite.

Another German word that is a bit more common in the English language, but describes roughly the same feeling, is wanderlust.

The use of the word dates back to the early 19th century. The Count of Pückler-Muskau (an author and world traveller) is said to have used it in his famous travel reports from 1835.

Some years later, in the 20th century, the word started to be used by travel agencies. Up to the present day, creating an artificial Fernweh by using beautiful pictures of far-away places is an important marketing strategy by tourist agencies.

German tourists in Mallorca, a popular destination that many have 'Fernweh' for in the winter. Photo: DPA


Dieses Fernweh zerstört meinen Verstand.

This longing for far-off places is destroying my mind

Eine Reise tritt nur an, dessen Fernweh gegenüber der Angst vor Veränderung überwiegt.

A journey only occurs when the desire for distant destinations is stronger than the fear of change.

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