In Finland, the word ‘sisu’ is used to describe a kind of extraordinary determination in the face of adversity. Though only four letters, according to Finnish speakers, it encapsulates something that words like ‘perseverance’ or ‘resilience’ in English don’t quite do justice. But just because English doesn’t have a word for these emotions, it doesn’t mean we don’t experience them.
Tim Lomas, a PhD lecturer in positive psychology at the University of East London, runs an index of such words called The Positive Lexicography Project.
We agree with him when he says that these words “offer a very different way of seeing the world” and give us a chance to develop a richer and more nuanced understanding of ourselves.
We’ve picked fifteen of our favourite words from the site but there are hundreds more to explore.
Something at once chaotic and joyful.
Beschaulich adjective, adverb
Quiet, pensive; living a simple life; pleasantly contemplative, unhurried in a fashion that inspires mental well-being.
Sirva vigad verb
Lit. weeping feasting/having fun; taking one's pleasures tearfully; a melancholic intermingling of joy and sorrow.
To deeply enjoy, to profoundly appreciate.
Joyful, euphoric, delighted, exuberant, elated, thrilled, ecstatic, jubilant.
Ânanda (आनन्द) noun
Bliss, lasting contentment; spiritual, ‘unconditional’ happiness.
Relaxation of body and mind; sleepiness, drowsiness; the ‘sweetness of doing nothing’.
Stoicism; the possibility or approach of not worrying about things that cannot be changed.
Seijaku (静寂) noun
Quiet (sei) tranquillity (jaku); silence, calm, serenity (especially in the midst of activity or chaos).
A deep sense of place, warmth, friendship, and contentment.
Xìngfú (幸福) noun
Fortunate (xìng) blessing (fú); contentment; deep happiness.
Longing; homesickness; notalgia.
Melancholic longing, nostalgia, dreaming wistfulness.
Anticipation one feels when waiting for someone, and keeps checking if they're arriving.
Sitting together in the darkness, perhaps expectantly (e.g., waiting for something to happen or to ‘burst forth’); the strange quiet before a momentous event.
Tizita (ትዝታ) noun
A bittersweet remembrance and longing for a time, person, thing gone by.
Eleutheromania (ελευθερομανία) noun
An intense, irrepressible desire for freedom.
If you check out The Positive Lexicography Project, let us know which word is your favourite!