Hiraeth (Welsh pronunciation: [hɪraɨ̯θ, hiːrai̯θ][1]) is a Welsh word that has no direct English translation. The University of Wales, Lampeter, likens it to a homesickness tinged with grief and sadness over the lost or departed, especially in the context of Wales and Welsh culture.[2] It is a mixture of longing, yearning, nostalgia, wistfulness or an earnest desire for the Wales of the past.[3]

The Cornish and Breton equivalents are hireth[4] and hiraezh. It is associated with the Amharic-Ethiopian concept of Tizita, the German concept of Sehnsucht, the Galician-Portuguese saudade or the Romanian dor.[5] A similar Scottish Gaelic term, cianalas, also refers to a type of longing or homesickness, often used in relation to the Outer Hebrides.


Derived from hir 'long' and -aeth (a nominal suffix creating an abstract noun from an adjective), the word is literally equivalent to English 'longing'. A less likely, but possible, etymology is hir 'long' + aeth 'pain, grief, sorrow, longing'. In the earliest citations in early Welsh poetry it implies 'grief or longing after the loss or death of someone'.[6]


Nineteenth-century attempts to spread the English language through its exclusive use in schools at the expense of the Welsh language, following the 1847 Reports of the Commissioners of Inquiry into the State of Education in Wales (commonly known as the "Treachery of the Blue Books" in Wales), led to an increase in hiraeth.[5] 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.[5]

See also


  1. ^ "How to pronounce hiraeth". geiriadur.net.
  2. ^ "Hiraeth". Geiriadur Welsh–English / English–Welsh On-line Dictionary. University of Wales Trinity Saint David. Retrieved 2017-04-16.
  3. ^ Boynton, Jessica. "Hiraeth". Eastern Michigan University. Archived from the original on September 12, 2006. Retrieved June 21, 2010.
  4. ^ "Gerlyver Kernewek |". www.cornishdictionary.org.uk.
  5. ^ a b c Crossley-Baxter, Lily (15 February 2021). "The untranslatable word that connects Wales". BBC. Retrieved 27 February 2021.
  6. ^ University of Wales Dictionary, s.v. 'hiraeth'

General and cited references