Our Missing Words

Apr 2024

Have you ever felt an emotion that seemed indescribable, one that didn’t have an obvious name or word for it? While we have words for basic emotions like happiness, sadness, anger, and fear, there are many nuanced feelings that we experience that don’t have a simple label.

Sometimes we borrow from other languages to make up for our lack - schadenfreude, the satisfaction of witnessing karma in action, is one example - but other times there is no word to borrow.

But what if I told you that there are words for these emotions, words that have been specifically crafted to capture the human experience.

Imagine being able to put a name to the realisation that everyone has a story, or being social, but having few close friends, or the comfort of being indoors during a thunderstorm.

You might be surprised at how oddly empowering it is to know that you’re not alone, that someone else has felt the same way you’ve felt your entire life.

My love letter to Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows is my love letter to The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows by John Koenig. It aims to fill the gap left in our dictionaries by coining new words to describe these obscure, unnamed emotions we all feel.

It has 309 new labels that we can use, each with genuinely gorgeous prose. I highly recommend reading it.

I’ve read the book back-to-back twice, and yet despite this, there are often words I forget. I remember the recognition, but not the precise wording.

To handle this, I’ve started to collect dictionary entries and embed them in a semantic search.

Onism Page

To collect the dictionary entries, I bought my fourth copy (the first digital one) and screenshotted every page.

Annotated OCR
OCR'd page:

Ran OCR to produce structured markdown based on relative line-heights.

Creation of new words

In the same spirit, I’ve also started to collect emotions that I’ve resonated with, and use them to create new words.

Tweet by @raphaelschaad: I just love love learning new stuff all the time. It's awkward to describe. Be it intentionally studying something, or coming across a random fact — I just get delighted by adding it to my memory.

The origin of epistephoria.


the exhilarating sensation of acquiring new knowledge, whether through deliberate study or serendipitous discovery, and the subsequent joy of integrating it into one’s ever-expanding understanding of the world.

If you have feelings that you struggle to find words for, share them with me at [email protected] - I’m here to listen. You can also explore our current collection of unique words at to discover new ways to articulate your feelings.