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saudade

English translation: a word with no accurate equivalent in English ...

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GLOSSARY ENTRY (DERIVED FROM QUESTION BELOW)
Portuguese term or phrase:saudade
English translation:a word with no accurate equivalent in English ...
Entered by: Neila Carneiro
Options:
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- Include in personal glossary

03:29 Mar 28, 2005
Portuguese to English translations [PRO]
General / Conversation / Greetings / Letters
Portuguese term or phrase: saudade
I am preparing a discussion of words difficult to translate into English. On the captioned word, I have only the information listed below, and I would appreciate correction or expansion, explaining the nuances. Thank you.

saudade – Portuguese for a certain type of longing

As you can see, this is very incomplete. What type of longing? Could you explain further? Thank you.
Ken Spector
a word with no accurate equivalent in English ...
Explanation:
In Portuguese, this word serves to describe the feeling of missing someone (or something) you´re fond of.It also relates to feelings of melancholy and fond memories of gone-by days, lost love and a general feeling of unhappiness.Some specialists say that this word has come to life during the Great Portuguese Discoveries, giving meaning to the sadness felt by those who departed in journeys to the unknown seas. Those who stayed behind—mostly women and children—deeply suffered with their absence, and such state has almost become a "portuguese way of life:" the constant feeling of absence, the sadness of something that's missing. Few other languages in the world have a word with such meaning, making Saudade a indistinguishable mark of the Portuguese culture.
In the latter half of the 20th century Saudade has become associated with the feeling of longing for one's homeland, as hundreds of thousands of Portuguese left in search of better futures in North America and Northern Europe.
Selected response from:

Neila Carneiro
Germany
Grading comment
This response is particularly helpful in that gives a sense of both (a) the variety of translations that could be proper, depending on context, and (b) the general concept that underlies those variations. It thus addresses both the specific word and the general concept of "words difficult to translate."

Don't know if the site will accept further comments below, so I'm adding them here to be safe:
To Vittoria M: same comment and thanks as above.
To Solomon Wright and to Amilcar: I agree with you that the word "untranslatable" may mislead. (You'll notice I didn't use that word!) Yours is a fascinating discussion about that concept, and is perhaps more interesting than the original question. See also my note added to the original question.
4 KudoZ points were awarded for this answer



Summary of answers provided
4 +6a word with no accurate equivalent in English ...
Neila Carneiro
3 +5ter saudades > missSolomon Wright
4 +4nostalgiaAntónio Ribeiro
5 +3reagrd, homesickness, longing, yearning for someone, fond rememberance
Marcella Lang
5 +1bitter-sweet nostalgic yearning
Ana Thompson
5Missing
Jose Vidigal
5longing for someone or something as a result of absence
Paul Dixon
4piningbigedsenior
3 +1ter saudades > missSolomon Wright
3spleen
Henrique Magalhaes
1 +1being happy back then now (Fernando Pessoa)Amilcar


Discussion entries: 4





  

Answers


6 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 5/5 peer agreement (net): +1
bitter-sweet nostalgic yearning


Explanation:
;)

Ana Thompson
United States
Local time: 19:03
Works in field
Native speaker of: Native in PortuguesePortuguese

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Amilcar: Yes, this is one the "untranslatable" connotations, probably the most frequent "untranslatable" connotation. More in my own answer.
15 hrs
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10 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +4
nostalgia


Explanation:
Saudade é qualquer coisa que se sente quando se está longe. Tenho saudades da família; tenho saudades da minha terra.

Também se pode ter saudades de qualquer coisa que se gosta. Tenho saudades de um bom leitão da Bairrada.

É difícil arranjar uma palavra em inglês que defina este sentimento.

É costume dizer que não existe tradução para este termo bem português.

António Ribeiro
Local time: 09:03
Works in field
Native speaker of: Native in PortuguesePortuguese
PRO pts in category: 36

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Marcella Lang
2 mins

agree  Lars Bradley: zumba!
12 mins

agree  Cristina Santos: também existe em galego
6 hrs

agree  Jonas Teixeira: Se não há equivalente para saudade, numa língua tão descritiva quanto o inglês, como lembrou o colega, o que significam yearning, longing e nostalgia?
11 hrs

neutral  Neila Carneiro: Quando a nostalgia vai embora....a saudade fica...
12 hrs
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24 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +6
a word with no accurate equivalent in English ...


Explanation:
In Portuguese, this word serves to describe the feeling of missing someone (or something) you´re fond of.It also relates to feelings of melancholy and fond memories of gone-by days, lost love and a general feeling of unhappiness.Some specialists say that this word has come to life during the Great Portuguese Discoveries, giving meaning to the sadness felt by those who departed in journeys to the unknown seas. Those who stayed behind—mostly women and children—deeply suffered with their absence, and such state has almost become a "portuguese way of life:" the constant feeling of absence, the sadness of something that's missing. Few other languages in the world have a word with such meaning, making Saudade a indistinguishable mark of the Portuguese culture.
In the latter half of the 20th century Saudade has become associated with the feeling of longing for one's homeland, as hundreds of thousands of Portuguese left in search of better futures in North America and Northern Europe.

Neila Carneiro
Germany
Native speaker of: Native in PortuguesePortuguese
PRO pts in category: 4
Grading comment
This response is particularly helpful in that gives a sense of both (a) the variety of translations that could be proper, depending on context, and (b) the general concept that underlies those variations. It thus addresses both the specific word and the general concept of "words difficult to translate."

Don't know if the site will accept further comments below, so I'm adding them here to be safe:
To Vittoria M: same comment and thanks as above.
To Solomon Wright and to Amilcar: I agree with you that the word "untranslatable" may mislead. (You'll notice I didn't use that word!) Yours is a fascinating discussion about that concept, and is perhaps more interesting than the original question. See also my note added to the original question.

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Marcella Lang
6 mins
  -> Obrigada! ;-) Thanks!! Vittoria

neutral  Deolindo: how come the most descriptive language ever doesn't have a word for such a basic feeling?
2 hrs
  -> well... you tell me!!

agree  Irina Dicovsky: Many concepts don't exist in other languages due basically, to cultural differences. On a certain island on the Pacific, there are no words to describe compete/competition (because they don't know of such). They do, though, have a word for "cooperate".
6 hrs
  -> Obrigada! ;-) Thanks!

agree  Marlene Curtis: Totally agree!!!!
8 hrs
  -> Obrigada! ;-) Thanks!

agree  Clauwolf
8 hrs
  -> Obrigada! ;-) Thanks!

agree  Jose Vidigal
15 hrs
  -> Obrigada! ;-) Jose

agree  Ana Rita Santiago: In some cases you can translate saudade for homesickeness, but in fact, saudade is much more than homesickenss, as Neila put.
15 hrs
  -> Thanks, Anarita!! ;-)
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31 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 5/5
Missing


Explanation:
Como disse o António, não existe tradução para o inglês com todo o sentido de saudade...

"Tenho saudades de você" = Something like "I miss you"

"Saudades da mamãe" algo como "homesick"

Amazon.com: Customer Reviews: Saudades Do Brasil: A Photographic ...
"To fell saudades is to miss something or somebody, to be homesick, to feel nostalgic, but is a feeling beyond description."




    Reference: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0295975660?v=g...
    Reference: http://www.sk.com.br/sk-idiom.html
Jose Vidigal
United States
Local time: 19:03
Native speaker of: Native in PortuguesePortuguese
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29 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 5/5 peer agreement (net): +3
reagrd, homesickness, longing, yearning for someone, fond rememberance


Explanation:
regard , homesicknesses (ter saudade da terra ou da pátria) , longing, yearning for someone, fond rememberance , my heart aches for (estou com saudades)


The most untranslatable word in the world

6 December 2004

The special words that are somehow lost in translation

THE Times has translated for you the most untranslatable word in the world.

The word is ilunga, from the Bantu language of Tshiluba, and means a person ready to forgive any abuse for the first time, to tolerate it a second time, but never a third time.

Source: THE TIMES TUESDAY, JUNE 22 2004
By Robin Young

Ilunga came top of a list drawn up with the help of 1,000 translators, narrowly beating shlimazl, Yiddish for a chronically unlucky person, and radioustukacz, Polish for a person who worked as a telegraphist for the resistance movements on the Soviet side of the iron Curtain.

In the English language, googly (as in cricket), Spam (as in tins) and gobbledegook (as in Plain English Campaign press releases) were among the most untranslatable words, but the top place was, surprisingly, reserved for plenipotentiary.

No problem for classicists there surely? It means a special ambassador or envoy, invested with full powers. Next!

Whimsy, bumf and serendipity (the faculty of making happy and unexpected discoveries by accident), poppycock (which is what you may consider all this), chuffed (which is what I am to be writing it) and kitsch (oh, you know) were other English words to make the Top Ten.

"My own vote would have gone to googly," said Jurga Zilinskiene, the managing director of Today Translations, which organised the survey. "People sometimes forget that an interpreter must translate not just from one language to another but from one culture to another." A googly, for any Anglophones still in doubt, is an off-breaking ball in cricket bowled with an apparent leg-break action on the part of the bowler. Howzat?!?

Today asked its linguists to vote for the most untranslatable word in languages other than English, which is where ilunga narrowly outpointed shlimazl and radioustukacz.

Linguists taking part in the poll were native speakers of languages ranging from English and French to Turkish, Ukrainian, Chinese, Dari, Farsi, Amharic and many others.


The top ten non-English words voted hardest to translate:

1. ilunga - Tshiluba word for a person who is ready to forgive any abuse for the first time, to tolerate it a second time, but never a third time.
2. shlimazl - Yiddish for a chronically unlucky person.
3. radioustukacz - Polish for a person who worked as a telegraphist for the resistance movements on the Soviet side of the Iron Curtain.
4. naa - Japanese word used only in Kansai area of Japan, to emphasise statements or agree with someone.
5. altahmam - Arabic for a kind of deep sadness.
6. gezellig - Dutch for cosy.
7. saudade - Portuguese for a certain type of longing.
8. selathirupavar - Tamil for a certain type of truancy.
9. pochernuchka - Russian for a person who asks lots of questions.
10. klloshar - loser in Albanian.

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 54 mins (2005-03-28 04:24:45 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

Saudade is a quintessential Brazilian and Western Iberian emotion concept.
... The prevailing theory is that it derives from Latin solitate ‘solitude’, ...
http://linguistics.ucdavis.edu/FacultyPages/pfarrell/Saudade...

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 1 hr 8 mins (2005-03-28 04:38:41 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

Please note I meant regard


    Reference: http://www.todaytranslations.com/index.asp?PageKind=NewsItem...
Marcella Lang
New Zealand
Local time: 11:03
Works in field
Native speaker of: Native in PortuguesePortuguese

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Lawyer-Linguist: excellent choice and feedback - nostalgic yearning would be my description generally but homesickness, pining etc - depends on context.
7 hrs
  -> Thanks Deborah

agree  Elizabeth Lyons: The closest word is yearning, something from deep in the heart.
11 hrs

agree  Jose Vidigal
15 hrs
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4 hrs   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5
pining


Explanation:
This comes close.

bigedsenior
Local time: 16:03
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
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7 hrs   confidence: Answerer confidence 3/5Answerer confidence 3/5 peer agreement (net): +1
ter saudades > miss


Explanation:
I think most of the (plentiful) discussion around the translatability of "saudade" gets a bit caught up in itself. Obviously, there is no single English word that is exactly equivalent to its every usage, but that is true of many if not most words in any language, in varying degrees. You need a context, and while in some cases the concept of "saudade" is indeed a particular mix of longing, nostalgia, melancholy, etc inextricably rooted in the last 5 centuries of Portuguese history and culture, in others it is used meaning *exactly* the same as the English "miss". There is *no* meaning loss in "Tenho saudades do Manel" -> "I miss Manel". "I pine for Manel" or "A melancholoy longing for Manel's company haunts me" are clearly much worse (i.e. wrong). Forgive me for stating the obvious, but to generically call a particular word "untranslateable", to say it has no equivalent in English, or even to try and supply its "translation" in isolation misses the point of what translation is about.

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 7 hrs 43 mins (2005-03-28 11:13:09 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

OOPS Sorry about the repeat posting!!

Solomon Wright
Germany
Local time: 01:03
Works in field
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Deolindo: I couldn't agree more. Why should we mythicise? As somebody said once, we should avoid traps that some of our colleagues fell into some 50 years ago.
12 hrs
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12 hrs   confidence: Answerer confidence 5/5
longing for someone or something as a result of absence


Explanation:
"Saudade" can be used about a person or a thing, or even of times gone by, as in the famous words:
Ai que saudades que eu tenho/ Da aurora da minha vida/ Da minha infância querida/ Que os anos não trazem mais.
In saying these words, Casimiro de Abreu expressed the wish to return to his childhood years, which I assume were very happy ones.

The full poem, which follows, should help to express the exact feeling of "saudades":

Meus oito anos
Casimiro de Abreu

Oh! que saudades que tenho
Da aurora da minha vida,
Da minha infância querida
Que os anos não trazem mais!
Que amor, que sonhos, que flores,
Naquelas tardes fagueiras
À sombra das bananeiras,
Debaixo dos laranjais!

Como são belos os dias
Do despontar da existência!
- Respira a alma inocência
Como perfumes a flor;
O mar é - lago sereno,
O céu - um manto azulado,
O mundo - um sonho dourado,
A vida - um hino d'amor!

Que aurora, que sol, que vida,
Que noites de melodia
Naquela doce alegria,
Naquele ingênuo folgar!
O céu bordado d'estrelas,
A terra de aromas cheia
As ondas beijando a areia
E a lua beijando o mar!

Oh! meu céu de primavera!
Que doce a vida não era
Nessa risonha manhã!
Em vez das mágoas de agora,
Eu tinha nessas delícias
De minha mãe as carícias
E beijos de minha irmã!

Livre filho das montanhas,
Eu ia bem satisfeito,
Da camisa aberta o peito,
- Pés descalços, braços nus -
Correndo pelas campinas
A roda das cachoeiras,
Atrás das asas ligeiras
Das borboletas azuis!

Naqueles tempos ditosos
Ia colher as pitangas,
Trepava a tirar as mangas,
Brincava à beira do mar;
Rezava às Ave-Marias,
Achava o céu sempre lindo.
Adormecia sorrindo
E despertava a cantar!



    Reference: http://orbita.starmedia.com/~purapoesia/poetas/casimiro_de_a...
Paul Dixon
Brazil
Local time: 20:03
Works in field
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish, Native in PortuguesePortuguese
PRO pts in category: 60
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12 hrs   confidence: Answerer confidence 3/5Answerer confidence 3/5
spleen


Explanation:
Another alternative to join the other, that in principle are not able to 'translate' the 'saudade' as we (Pt) feel...

Henrique Magalhaes
Local time: 00:03
Native speaker of: Portuguese
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7 hrs   confidence: Answerer confidence 3/5Answerer confidence 3/5 peer agreement (net): +5
ter saudades > miss


Explanation:
I think most of the (plentiful) discussion around the translatability of "saudade" gets a bit caught up in itself. Obviously, there is no single English word that is exactly equivalent to its every usage, but that is true of many if not most words in any language, in varying degrees. You need a context, and while in some cases the concept of "saudade" is indeed a particular mix of longing, nostalgia, melancholy, etc inextricably rooted in the last 5 centuries of Portuguese history and culture, in others it is used meaning *exactly* the same as the English "miss". There is *no* meaning loss in "Tenho saudades do Manel" -> "I miss Manel". "I pine for Manel" or "A melancholoy longing for Manel's company haunts me" are clearly much worse (i.e. wrong). Forgive me for stating the obvious, but to generically call a particular word "untranslateable", to say it has no equivalent in English, or even to try and supply its "translation" in isolation misses the point of what translation is about.

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 17 hrs 50 mins (2005-03-28 21:19:50 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

Afterthought (after input from my girlfriend Rute, a native speaker): For this discussion, it\'s quite revealing to look at the difference between \"saudade\" (singular) and \"saudades\" (plural); perhaps the former has more to do with that intangible, undefinable nostalgic longing particular to Portuguese culture, whereas the latter (generally) lends itself to easier translation, into English at least, by means of the verb to miss in many contexts?... Would welcome further comments if anyone can still be bothered!!

Solomon Wright
Germany
Local time: 01:03
Works in field
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Amy Duncan: Absolutely, Solomon! Thanks for bringing this up, because I've always felt that the "mystery" surrounding the word "saudade" was exaggerated.
2 hrs

agree  Jane Lamb-Ruiz: ditto to both
2 hrs

neutral  Neila Carneiro: saudade is more than a feeling... is a state of mind... saudade não vai embora...
5 hrs
  -> What about "matar saudades"?...

agree  Sormane Fitzgerald Gomes: Absolutely. I agree 100%.
9 hrs

agree  Amilcar: with it all & go 1 step further to reject notion of saudade as peculiar "Pt" mix of longing, nostalgia, etc. Yes, saudade handier than saudadeS for the literary/cultural construct, but the thing is really about neither; rather about "our" SaudosismO.
10 hrs

agree  Lawyer-Linguist: excellent feedback
11 hrs
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17 hrs   confidence: Answerer confidence 1/5Answerer confidence 1/5 peer agreement (net): +1
being happy back then now (Fernando Pessoa)


Explanation:
The "untranslatability" of saudade into any other language (galego does not enter into this, since it IS OuR language) is, no doubt in my mind, a nearly embarrassing myth. Some of the other answers greatly clarify the issue. I will add a few dry points.

First, a lot of the words with a reputation for untractability in translation, notably CountlesS English words, earn their reputation as a result of being "portmanteau" words, "catch-alls". Translators and other language professionals that act as virtual translation machines have trouble with them portmanteaus, because ... you know ... what the heck is ThE TranslatioN of the word? Anything the translator can think of in the target language "lacks something", is ThE translation of "something else", etc. Translations from English to Portuguese often suffer from the consequences of these ailments, the most common symptom being OvertranslatioN.

Apropos, let us consider the maddening set of Russian "mood" particles. A "Ru to Pt" translator has ora, bom, bem, pois, e pouco mais; a "Tu to En" translator not even that. In >90% of the cases "translating the particle" adds nothing at all; and when something is needed it is most rarely a word "translation" for the particle. In the opposite direction: "Why, I did not even know she was already in town." There will always be a translator who feels an overwhelming obligation to "translate" that "why", usually by some fantastic paragraph-long circumvolution. In the case of saudade, purported translation difficulties have in common with this the feeling that "something is missing"; but in the overwhelming majority of cases nothing is missing other than an identical experience (with the uses of the original word vs those of the translation) in the psyche of a person with a deep immersion in both cultural contexts. So what? Do we not already know that we cannot transpose the entire social-psychological-cultural-historic... context? Often it is even illicit to try to do so, rather than shocking the target language culture into question.

In the overwhelming number of cases there is not one, but PlentY of perfectly good translations for saudade in any literary language; and I venture to guess, in any language, period. In chosing the best translation there is only that little detail to consider: ContexT! (But what is ThaT?...) The difficulty is NoT that saudade has an arcane, impossible, meaning, but that it has a whole slew of moderately different denotations / connotations.

ThaT is what usually happens, but there is also something to the "arcane meaning" notion. (Recall Carolina Micha:elis de Vasconcelos here.) In its high literary, especially poetic, usage, there is a Pt-speaking ExperiencE that is a bit sui generis, OK, maybe more than a bit sui generis, though the Russians and other Slavs may be quite justified to dispute such claims; and the sui generis literary experience interacts both ways with the collective psyche, just as in Russia.

How could one characterise this? Possibilities (by themselves, or as part of a composite) might include:

A propensity towards dwelling on the past, not wanting to let go of it;
Regrets concerning that which can no longer be helped;
A sense of loss, of living that was missed;
An imagining of past hapiness that may not have been really all that great, or even that may not have been there at all;
Conflicting feelings brough about by a pleasure in re-living a real or not so real past life, and the pain of no longer having it;
Etc, etc.

Note that Ana's proposal brings to mind quite a bit of this context. E.g., bitter-sweet it is, many a time, especially in literature. Refer to Fernando Pessoa (Pobre velha música ...) for a wonderfully intense and concise portrait of a version of this (so Pt, or so universal?) deeper saudade.

Yes, when it comes to this, it can be rough; but the problem is not the word being too precise, or maddeningly imprecise. The problem is that we cannot transpose the entire culture by means of a single word. We can certainly try (in every case where appropriate) to convey the "atmosphere" of the passage. In spite of the many tools available to that end, this can be quite difficult, even for the inspired translator. (The "manual machine translator" need not begin to try to do it.)

Is a (culturally-, historically-, etc., determined) heavy emotional burden for a word something so rare as to make saudade a sight to behold (something to make a big deal of)? No, this stuff happens all the time all over the place. First to mind, in En: Black, freedom, sex. Are these impossible to translate to Pt? No, just maddening ... at times.

Conclusion: forget about other peoples not having saudade. It is silly.





--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 17 hrs 54 mins (2005-03-28 21:24:27 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

In the 3rd paragraph \"Tu to En\" is wrong; it should be \"Ru to En\"

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 18 hrs 50 mins (2005-03-28 22:19:51 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

Fernando Pessoa implies, more precisely, a notion of HavinG BeeN happy back then, now

Amilcar
Native speaker of: Native in PortuguesePortuguese
PRO pts in category: 8

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Lawyer-Linguist: powerful arguments!
1 hr
  -> Thank you
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