Let’s start with the definition. Hiraeth is an untranslatable Welsh word that describes a longing for a home, a place, or a feeling that no longer exists or never existed.

It’s a homesickness for the places from your past you can’t return to or even those you’ve never been to. Hiraeth can also mean nostalgia for your past self, the people who are long gone, or the emotions you used to feel.

But it can also describe a sense of yearning for imaginary places, feelings, and people – for example, the ones you read about. Sometimes, it feels as if you suddenly take a glance into your previous life and connect with the people and things that existed long ago – or, at least, could have existed.

Hiraeth is a perfect example of a comprehensive term that is impossible to explain with just one or two words. And everyone who is familiar with this rare word puts their own meaning into it.

The Hiraeth of Old Souls and Deep Thinkers

Old souls and deep thinkers are among those people who know what Hiraeth is better than anyone. These individuals are more prone to feelings of nostalgia and unexplained sadness.

According to the ideas of New Age spirituality, old souls are believed to be more intuitive, better connected with their inner self, and more likely to remember their past lives. If you relate to these beliefs, you could regard Hiraeth as a connection to your previous reincarnations.

In this case, it’s a feeling of longing for the places that were your home, the people who were your family, and the things you did in your past lives. It’s just one way to view this emotional state.

If we go with logic, a person with an old soul’s characteristics translates into a deep-thinking introvert. It’s someone who is highly contemplative, a dreamer, and an abstract thinker.

Such people are prone to feeling pensive or sad for no obvious reason. They think about their past often and immerse themselves in fantasy worlds.

No surprise that they may sometimes feel an unexplainable yearning for imaginary places and people. They also have the habit of overanalyzing their past, so they can feel nostalgia for the home they used to live in or the experiences they used to have.

All these are examples of Hiraeth.

When Can You Experience Hiraeth?

We all have felt this emotional state at some point in our lives, but most of us had no idea that there was a name for it. The best example of Hiraeth is the feeling you get when staring into the starry sky.

It’s an unexplainable longing, but you don’t know what or who you long for. The stars in the sky look so distant, and yet, it feels as if they are calling you. Is it some kind of lost homeland trying to reach out from a faraway galaxy or is it the stardust speaking inside you and reviving your connection with the universe?

I’m sure that you are familiar with this feeling, even though it’s difficult to explain. You can also experience Hiraeth while looking into the sea or the ocean. The boundless surface of the water, the reflection of the sky, and the unreachable horizon.

What is there beyond it? It’s the lands you’ve never stepped on, the lights of the cities you’ve never seen, and the foreign air you’ve never breathed.

This is when you start to feel an inexplicable yearning for the places you’ve never been to and are not sure they even exist. Maybe they are just a product of your imagination.

Have you felt this emotional state? If yes, then what is Hiraeth for you? I’d love to hear about your experiences.

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This Post Has 21 Comments

  1. Lise Gariepy

    Thank you so much for the great article. It is my new word (I even looked up how to say it) because I feel it a least once a day, at least. And for me it is the yearning for something or someplace intangible. I am an extreme introvert (INFJ), who loves people but for only 2 hours a day and even less now that I am retired. As soon as I was retired, I breathed a sigh of relief. I finally have the time to dream, to read, learn and just think, at my own pace. But I still yearn for a different Earth, you know. I see the great possibilities of humanity but of course it is not the reality. When I was young I used to yearn to leave the planet and just go. But funnily enough I find travelling difficult for me because I just want to travel in the morning and then I want to be home, with my books, my computers and my art and my beautiful apartment. So I will continue to yearn and hope for humanity to change before it is too late. Just think, there is no one in the world that I can talk to about these things. I can count on one hand how many meaningful conversations I had with the people I know. Funnily many more meaningful conversations with strangers really 🙂 Thank God for books and articles like yours 🙂 Thanks again for the great article, I am now going to buy your book. 🙂

    1. Anna LeMind, B.A.

      Thank you Lise!

    2. Kassie

      May I suggest that this longing to the leave the planet, to have meaningful conversations with someone intelligent and engaging is the desire God put in every man and woman from the very beginning of time. I believe we long for the return to the garden. When we communed with God in the cool of the day, there was no shame or guilt because there was no sin in the world yet, and everything was perfect. The animals played together, the fruit trees grew from the springs that came up from the deep and all was as it was supposed to be. God is calling us back to the garden. One day the world will be made right again and as it says in the bible HE will balance the scales and evil will no longer prevail and he will make right all the wrongs. We will live in harmony with our creator and others the way He intended. That’s just what I think about when I think of Hiraeth. Like you said, Thank God for books.. I too find great solace and comfort in them. All the best, Kassie

      1. Jeff Kennedy

        Your incredible thoughts about this word are so full of meaning and wisdom. I wish I could just sit and listen and talk to a person like you!
        Thanks for sharing your beautiful insights on something that I have had since I was a child.
        I really never felt like other people understood what I was experiencing, but you do!

  2. Don

    This sounds like home. The longer I live, the more I feel it and the more I live in my thoughts. The best description for me is yearning. I may have mentioned this before on here, but it feels like the words from that song which says ‘walking the lonely street of dreams’. It bothers me not at all to be this way. It’s home away from the real home. It is comforting.

  3. Antonio Farfan-Fiorani

    Thank you very much for your awesome article.
    I will define what Hiraeth is for me by quoting Einstein and “Star Trek” (1966) opening sequence narration:
    1.- “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.”
    2.- “To explore strange new worlds. To seek out new life and new civilizations. To boldly go where no man has gone before.”
    This is who I am.

    1. caley

      Yes absolutely 1000%. I’m a Caucasian female and I highly resonate with Africa. I’ve always felt like I was in the wrong body, always yearning for connection with the African race. When black woman and men rejected me for trying to act black and my keen interest and live for black culture and the heroes of the past I felt a deep sense of not belonging. Like they don’t see who I am, as if I’m wearing a white skin suit and they don’t see me. I’ve dreamed of going to Africa since I was little and he excitement of seeing black brothers and sisters was electrifying, it felt like home. The slave trade, troubles in Africa’s, the land itself feels like my own struggles even though I know logically I’m white and in this life haven’t had the same sufferings as my fellow African brothers and sisters. I’ve tried to explain this this a few people and I get that look like I’m crazy. But the feeling that I get that I will one day travel to this place I’ve always dreamed of brings the deepest feelings of belonging and “home” that I’ve felt outside of my children, my heart and our creator. Thank you with all of my heart for posting your insights and inspiring me to just embrace who I am, beyond a race, nation and orientation. Many blessings to you and all who’ve come across this article.

  4. Valerie Dunn

    I am an extrovrt, ENFJ who by the way is patiently (J style) waiting for you to discuss my category.
    I experience these feelings when I am praying and reflecting. I long for people and experiences I used to knolw and have even talked to these people. A lot of this is a yearning for he next life from which we came, yet I do not want to leave this life, not yet. Ad yes I have been told I am an old soul and have had experiences of , for a few seconds becomng someone else: a Hindu priest, Catholic priest,I was singing a solo verse in a spiritual and found myself wearing vestments and elevating the host) an entertainer/singer a circuit rider in the USA in he 18th century, a native American shaman etc. I live a busy Active life, publish my own newspaper, am a Presbyterian e;lder. So this is not escapism, just part of me.

    1. Matt

      Yep. I feel this a lot. A certain brand in a river, a hill and a house with a view. I have hinted for it all my life. I think I am ready to let it go now. This article helps me accept that it is likely from another life or dimension or something.

  5. Christina

    Ya, I feel this quite often…when I head to the wilderness, it eases things. I have a particular past life I am constantly reminded of that is tied to my current failing marriage…so even more sadness…

  6. Shelley

    I experience this often. I will say to myself, “I want to go home. And then, but there is no home.” Ready this article has got me so melancholy. I am experiencing hiraeth as I write these words. It is a deep sadness permeating my entire chest area as well as my head. I feel as if I could cry. But I won’t. I don’t allow myself to do that often.

    ~ INFJ

  7. Sush

    Thank you. I never realized there was a name for it – that unexplainable longing for something I’ve always called “Home.”

  8. Steven White

    I used to interpret this feeling in terms of an ideal world transcendent of this world – a sort of Platonic realm of Ideas. Sometimes I believed my conscious origins were in a different realm that was not even physical. I already felt alienated from this world, so I guess that was my way of believing there was a home somewhere beyond this world where I actually belonged.

    I’ve come to see these sorts of interpretations as unhelpful in that they encourage me to separate myself from this world and not accept it. I’ve come to see that it’s actually unhelpful and productive of suffering to resist being in this world and being fully incarnate. This is the only actual world! Believing there’s a better world somewhere else to which I compare this world unfavorably serves only to increase my dissatisfaction and alienation.

    So as painful and seemingly counter-intuitive as it may be, I believe that the only way for me to overcome my suffering and alienation is to accept this world as it is without trying to make it or myself better. I can’t actually change either one. So it’s futile to rebel against reality as it is, as I have done for so long.

  9. Luane

    When returning to the mountains of western North Carolina from a trip and seeing the first glimpse of those smoky blue mountains rise above the flat highway. That’s my hiraeth.

  10. Christine

    “… a feeling of longing for the places that were your home, the people who were your family..”

    It was perfect timing for me to learn about this word. I was recently forced to sell an inherited relative’s home that I was fortunate to live in for 10 years, a home that had many family memories since I was 8. This combined with the recent loss of my mom has me constantly longing for the past, the house & all my family members now gone that gathered there.

  11. Ray Dillon

    I feel this word accurately describes much of the feeling we military brats feel or at least felt as we grew up, moving from place to place every 2 or 3 years.

  12. Ava

    I’ve felt this my entire life. I’ve always thought about how I want to go home. I’ve never known where that is. I’ve never felt like I’ve found it. It is what compells me to keep evolving and trying to find my true home.

  13. Abby

    I have a deep sense of longing for a the ice when i see it i feel like ive always been there ive always graced over it and felt it with the soft warm touch of my palm and when i see figure skaters and the white culture in general it pulls me to the point I feel like its been separated from me but ive never once touched snow
    Only God understands this feeling in me. I don’t quite believe in past lives or reincarnations but sometimes i feel like this body isn’t my own.

  14. Michael

    Hiraeth doesn’t mean that, it’s a word that can literally only apply to Wales and Welsh people as it refers to the grief surrounding Welsh cultural erasure stemming from a love of Wales. Stop trying to use it as some kind of aesthetic phrase.

  15. Joan

    I read this word in a book I was reading and when I looked up the meaning, I was floored. This is me, every single day of my life. I have this deep yearning for the past and I no longer feel joy. I carry around a perpetual heart ache that I cannot sate. I have moved so much in my life before and also with my husband that I no longer feel “at home.” My father was in the military so we moved quite often and now, with my husband, no place is ever right for him, so we continue to find a new place. No place ever feels like home and I’m afraid it never will.

  16. Richard

    I’m a male ENFP living in Australia since age 24. Entire first 7 years of life spent dodging bombs in U.K. During that time my mother in tears repeatedly told me sad stories of her own childhood and how she prayed every day in school that her mother would be safe and she wouldn’t find lying drunk in a gutter. I don’t know if this caused my constant urge to ‘run home’ but there never was/has been ‘a home’ I’ve spent a lifetime hurriedly running . . . .

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