Sonder—a New Word Full of Wonder

Girl taking a break while travellingAs a copyeditor, I can easily get caught up in the rightness and wrongness of language. Every so often, though, a word or phrase strikes me as beautiful or intriguing. The word “sonder” (rhymes with “wander”) does both.

The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows is defined by its author, John Koenig, as “a compendium of the aches, demons, vibes, joys and urges that roam the wilderness of the psychological interior.” His entry for “sonder” most certainly falls into step with that description.

So what does “sonder” mean? According to Koenig—who seems to have coined the word, at least in its English sense—it’s “the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.”

If that definition is too verbose, the video will satisfy your curiosity and leave you wanting more.

What’s your favourite made-up word?

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