The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows

The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows is a compendium of invented words written by John Koenig. Each original definition aims to fill a hole in the language—to give a name to emotions we all might experience but don’t yet have a word for.

The author's mission is to capture the aches, demons, vibes, joys and urges that roam the wilderness of the psychological interior. Each sorrow is bagged, tagged and tranquilized, then released gently back into the subconscious.

▸ visit the facebook page to hear the backstory behind each word

▸ follow on twitter (@obscuresorrows) for whatever reason

▸ send me a tumblr message describing emotions you need words for

▸ send me an email via

JOHN KOENIG is a designer and commercial director who lives in St. Paul, Minnesota. His dictionary has been acclaimed by New York Magazine, Washington Post Express, John Green, Jason Kottke, and the guys from Radiolab.

He is currently writing a book version of The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows. It is gigantic and completely made up.

Copyright © 2013 John Koenig. All content is intended to be read at night.


n. the post-distraction effort to recall the reason why you’re feeling particularly anxious or angry or excited, in which you retrace your sequence of thoughts like a kid wandering across the neighborhood gathering the string of a downed kite, which was likely lost in a romantic storm or devoured by that huge carnivorous tree that is Things Your Parents Have Said.

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    n. the post-distraction effort to recall the reason why you’re feeling particularly anxious or angry or excited, in...
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