The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows

My copy of The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, by John Koenig. Photo by Wren Wright.

I just gotta tell you about The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows because it’s so cool!

Maybe you’ve seen the blog or have come across the YouTube channel or maybe you’ve seen the book. If you have and you love it, hello kindred spirit! If you haven’t, maybe you’ll fall in love with the concept as much as I have.

From the blurb on the back cover of the book:

The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows defines new words for emotions that we all feel but don’t have the language to express. By turns poignant, relatable, and mind-bending, the definitions include whimsical etymologies drawn from languages around the world, interspersed with otherworldly collages and lyrical essays that explore forgotten corners of the human condition. A truly original book, The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows is for anyone who enjoys a shift in perspective, pondering the ineffable feelings that make up our lives, which have far more in common than we think.

The very words floating around in my head.

I want to share with you some of the definitions from the book, as well as some of the YouTube videos. They’re exquisite.

Definitions from the book

I opened the book randomly and came up with these words:


n. the wish that people could suspend their civility and indulge the physical side of each other first — sniffing each other’s hair like dogs, staring unabashedly at interesting faces, reveling in a beautiful voice like a song on the radio.

Lithuanian žvėris, wild beast + Latin vērissimus, the truest, the realest. Pronounced “zvair-iz-uhm.”


n. the ambient feeling of being a human being; a baseline mood that everyone feels intensely every moment of their lives, but can never pin down because they have nothing else to compare it to.

Sanskrit manusiá, human being. Pronounced “muh-noo-zhuh” or “muh-noo-zee-uh.”


n. a chilling hint of distance that creeps slowly into a relationship — beginning to notice them laughing a little less, look away a little more, explain away their mood like it’s no longer your business — as if you’re watching them fall out of love right in front of you, gradually and painfully, like a hole in the radiator that leaves your house a little colder with every passing day, whose only clue is a slow, unnerving dripdrip drip.

Middle English riven, to rend, to cleave apart. Pronounced “riv-uh-ner.”

I understand and relate to so many of the words. I think it’d be lovely to weave some of them into our vocabulary. In fact, I’ve done it once (see “loss of backing” in a recently weekly reading on my Wren Reads Tarot page). And I’ll do it again.

Oh, and you might be pleased to know that The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows is available in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook, read by the author himself.

If you liked what you’ve read, please click about 50 times (no kidding) on the applauding hands sign on the left and consider subscribing to receive my posts directly in your email.

And if you really liked it, share it and tell your friends.

And if you really, really liked it, you might want to check out my ebook, The Grapes of Dementia: My Journey of Love, Loss, Surrender, and Gratitude, available worldwide through Amazon.

Book cover design by Wren Wright, photo by Donna Clement, graphics design support by Luis H. Ruiz.

For free weekly tarot readings focusing on personal development, check out my other Medium page — Wren Reads Tarot.



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Wren Wright

Wren Wright


Writing mostly to heal myself from life; sharing in hopes you’ll find some of it helpful. Also books, personal development, and anything else I’m drawn to.