The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows

The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows

        “Creates beautiful new words that we need but do not yet have.”

                — John Green, author of The Fault in Our Stars

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.

All words in this dictionary are new. They were not necessarily intended to be used in conversation, but to exist for their own sake; to give a semblance of order to a dark continent, so you can settle it yourself on your own terms, without feeling too lost—safe in the knowledge that we’re all lost.

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The Book - Coming Soon from Simon & Schuster!

We don't have a release date yet, but I'll update this page as soon as I know. In the meantime, feel free to write me directly and describe an emotion you need a word for:

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The YouTube Series

Written, edited, coined and narrated by John Koenig.

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The Author

John Koenig is a video editor, public speaker, and narrator from Minnesota, who lives in Amsterdam with his wife. His work has been acclaimed by New York Magazine, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, and the guys from Radiolab.

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Copyright © John Koenig 2009-2018. All content is intended to be read at night.


n. a friendship that can lie dormant for years only to pick right back up instantly, as if no time had passed since you last saw each other.


v. intr. feeling the tranquil pleasure of being near a gathering but not quite in it—hovering on the perimeter of a campfire, chatting outside a party while others dance inside, resting your head in the backseat of a car listening to your friends chatting up front—feeling blissfully invisible yet still fully included, safe in the knowledge that everyone is together and everyone is okay, with all the thrill of being there without the burden of having to be.

n. the feeling that no matter what you do is always somehow wrong—as if there’s some obvious way forward that everybody else can see but you, each of them leaning back in their chair and calling out helpfully, “colder, colder, colder…”

Brand new episode of The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows.


n. the frustration of being stuck in just one body, that inhabits only one place at a time, which is like standing in front of the departures screen at an airport, flickering over with strange place names like other people’s passwords, each representing one more thing you’ll never get to see before you die—and all because, as the arrow on the map helpfully points out, you are here.


n. weariness with the same old issues that you’ve always had—the same boring flaws and anxieties you’ve been gnawing on for years, which leaves them soggy and tasteless and inert, with nothing interesting left to think about, nothing left to do but spit them out and wander off to the backyard, ready to dig up some fresher pain you might have buried long ago.


adj. proud of a scar on your body, which is an autograph signed to you by a world grateful for your continued willingness to play with her, even when you don’t feel like it.

With every click of the shutter,
you’re trying to press pause on your life.
If only so you can feel a little more comfortable moving on
living in a world stuck on play.

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