I have been going through a few resources, any my understanding of the words is the following:
Weltschmerz (often translated as world-weariness or causeless sadness, with the literal translation world-hurt or world-pain) is defined as “the kind of feeling experienced by someone who believes that physical reality can never satisfy the demands of the mind” on Wikipedia. My understanding is that the word denotes a feeling of disgust towards the world and its shortcomings.
Sehnsucht, meanwhile seems to be a feeling of constant searching for an unknown goal, or possibly for a meaning or purpose of one’s life. From Wikipedia: “Psychologists have worked to capture the essence of Sehnsucht by identifying its six core characteristics: (a) utopian conceptions of ideal development; (b) sense of incompleteness and imperfection of life; (c) conjoint time focus on the past, present, and future; (d) ambivalent (bittersweet) emotions; (e) reflection and evaluation of one’s life; and (f) symbolic richness”.
So, my understanding is that the main differences are:
- Sehnsucht is a feeling of longing, while Weltschmerz is a feeling of disgust.
- Sehnsucht seems to be self-centring while Weltschmerz seems to be world-centring.
- Sehnsucht seems to be a very “active”, ardent feeling, while Weltschmerz seems to be a depression-like, passive state.
I would like to know a native speaker’s take on this.