German word of the day: Die Sehnsucht

Sarah Magill
Sarah Magill - [email protected]
German word of the day: Die Sehnsucht
Photo: depositphotos

A noun with a meaning which is a combination of ‘longing’, ‘pining’ or ‘yearning’, the idea of Sehnsucht is something which can’t be summed up in one word in English.


Most foreigners living in Germany will at one time or another find themselves experiencing Sehnsucht for their homeland.

This emotive German word has no direct counterpart in English, but can perhaps best be described as an “internal, painful longing for someone or something”. 

The true meaning of this word however, like the feeling it describes, can be interpreted differently depending on the individual.

Where does it come from?

Sehnsucht is divisible into two parts: Sehn from sehnen (to yearn)  and Sucht (addiction, craving).

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The origin of the word Sehnen is unknown, but there have been many attempts to assign it a definitive definition, including by the famous Grimm Brothers, according to whose own dictionary it means "to grieve, to grasp, to demand something, especially related to the pain and desire of love”.

The sucht part of the word, surprisingly, does not come from the word suchen (to search), but from siech meaning sick. 

So, put together, the word Sehnsucht literally means a sickness caused by a yearning desire. 

Photo: DPA


Sehnsucht nach Vergangenheit.


Wir erwarten seine Ankunft mit Sehnsucht.

We are eagerly awaiting his arrival 

Sie ist vor Sehnsucht verzehrt.

She is consumed by longing.

Nach einem Jahr im Ausland hatte ich Sehnsucht nach der Heimat.

After a year abroad I was homesick.



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