(noun) An untranslatable German word, “consisting of Welt, meaning ‘world,’ and Schmerz, meaning 'pain.’ Just as your head can hurt (Kopfschmerzen), or you can suffer from a stomachache (Magenschmerzen), the world can hurt too.” In its mildest form, this is “world-weariness;” meaning sadness or melancholy at the evils of the world. “At the other extreme, it’s an existential pain that leaves you reeling with a damaging, head-clutching despair.”

  • [literarily] world-pain.

-Moore, Christopher J.. In Other Words: A Language Lover’s Guide to the Most Intriguing Words Around the World (pg. 29). 

Jestem od trzech dni przywalony po prostu górą czarnej melancholii, jakiegoś najwstrętniejszego rodzaju weltschmerzem, zobojętniały do idiotyzmu.
—  Władysław Broniewski “Pamiętnik”
Favorite German Words

Weltschmerz = literally world pain, which can be understood as universal pain, world weariness, or melancholia.

A feeling of things in the world being so wrong that they can never be fixed. It’s a term coined by the German author Jean Paul aka Johann Paul Friedrich Richter (1763-1825), who was a Romantic writer, best known for his humorous novels and stories. It’s a kind of feeling experienced by someone who understands that physical reality can never satisfy the demands of the mind. This kind of world view was widespread among romantic authors such as Lord Byron, Giacomo Leopardi, François-René de Chateaubriand, Alfred de Musset, Nikolaus Lenau, Hermann Hesse, and Heinrich Heine. It is also used to denote the feeling of anxiety caused by the ills of the world. The modern meaning of Weltschmerz is the psychological pain caused by sadness that can occur when realizing that someone’s own weaknesses are caused by the inappropriateness and cruelty of the world and physical and social circumstances. Weltschmerz may cause depression, resignation, escapism, and can become a problem. The modern meaning should also be compared with the concept of anomie, or a kind of alienation, that Émile Durkheim wrote about. John Steinbeck wrote about the feeling in The Winter of Our Discontent. In music, Weltschmerz, and especially dark romanticism play an important part in Goth rock. Kurt Vonnegut also references this feeling in his novel Player Piano. 

Weltschmerz is the depression you feel when the world as it is does not line up with the world as you think it should be.