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SAUDADE

[noun] a feeling of longing, melancholy, or nostalgia that is supposedly characteristic of the Portuguese temperament Oxford English Dictionary
Locals on the battlements of Lisbon’s São Jorge Castle with the 25 de Abril Bridge in the distance.
Afternoon scene in the Alfama district

Saudade is a Portuguese word with no direct translation into English.

Some describe it as being similar to nostalgia – yet it can also mean a yearning for something that never was (or perhaps never will be). Others explain it as a melancholy which hangs like a fog over the Portuguese nation – though it can also contain a little happiness for the memory of what has been lost. Some claim saudade has its root in the days when the Moors ruled Iberia: a people who had their own untranslatable words for loneliness, borne of long journeys across the desert. Everyone agrees understanding saudade is the key to understanding Portugal’s soul.

And even novices in saudade can find it strolling around Lisbon. It is, for example, present in the derelict ferry terminal where the clock hands are permanently stuck at ten-to-one. It is present among the tomb-lined avenues of Prazeres Cemetery, where stone angels watch salty morning mists gust in from the Atlantic. And it is present in the five remaing antique tramlines that rattle around the city – strangely numbered 12, 15, 18, 25 and 28 in memory of other lines that have long since been dismantled.

The word is still meaningful to Portuguese people today – many of whom have their own personal definition of saudade.

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