Video Fix: Creating a new language for emotion

October 4, 2017 10:00 am

Perhaps you feel altschmerz every day.

Or perhaps, you are more prone to occhiolism.

Or perhaps, you have never heard of either of these words.

If this is the case, then you are not alone.

Video Fix: Creating a new language for emotion banner - Collection of alphabet stamps

Altschmerz and occhiolism are two of hundreds of words that have been created by John Koenig for his Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, an online dictionary, composed of words Koenig invented to describe emotions he previously had no words for.

Koenig has spent over seven years creating The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, in what he described as an attempt to make it easier to express emotions. He argued, in his TED Talk that there are a plethora of holes in the language of emotion. This project, is an attempt to fill these holes, to create words to better allow people to talk about what they feel.


He has, for example, come up with the word Morii, which means the desire to capture a fleeting experience. Entries in his dictionary are often accompanied by videos such as the following:


People have responded to this dictionary in thanks, saying that Koenig has given them a way to express themselves.

In fact, he said that he has begun to see these words being used both online and in real life.

“There is no stranger feeling than making up a word and seeing it take a mind of its own,” he said. “I haven’t come up with a word for that yet, but I will.”

While Koenig was come up with hundreds of words, he is by far not the first person to do so. George Orwell, the author of 1984, invented the word newspeak. Charles Dickens invented curses such as gormed, in an attempt to avoid offending Victorian Era readers. Perhaps most famously, Shakespeare is responsible for inventing 1700 words that are commonly used today, such as addiction, impartial and laughable.

Perhaps, someday some of Koenig’s words will enter daily vernacular as pervasively as those of Shakespeare.


  • Shakespeare-Online (2017). Words Shakespeare Invented. Available at: (Accessed 15 September 2017)
  • TED (2017). Beautiful New Words to Describe Obscure Emotions. Available at: (Accessed 15 September 2017)
  • The Atlantic (2016) Opia, sonder, liberosis: The dictionary for all the emotions you feel but can’t express. Available at: (Accessed 15 September 2017)
  • The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows (2017). The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows. Available at: (Accessed 15 September 2017)
  • The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows (2017) Morii. Available at: (Accessed 15 September 2017)

Written by Flora Zempleni. Flora was a study visitor in the Communication team of the Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament (Luxembourg). She is currently enrolled in the trilingual Master in Learning and Communication in Multilingual and Multicultural Contexts at the University of Luxembourg.

Prepared by Pedro Ramos – Translator, Social Media and Content Manager, former Communication Trainee at the Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament (Luxembourg).

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