One Word at a Time: „Dor”
Sensibilities have changed significantly among Romanians in the last few decades: for example, the music of the late ‘80s/early ‘90s, which moved our (grand)parents to tears, risks giving us a good laugh, today - and nothing more. Yet, there’s still this one Romanian word which calls to mind this one Romanian feeling which, whether we’re young or elderly, residents or émigrés, seldom fails to impact us: dor. If we’re here, ne e dor de (we miss) friends or relatives from far away; if we’re there, ne e dor de “acasă,” home (which oftentimes tends to come down to ne e dor de sarmale, telemea, papanşi…).
Dor, that is, seems to have been quite irresistible to all Romanians, at all times. So let’s have a look at what it is
Dor comes from colloquial Latin dolus (< dolere = a durea, “to be sore”, “to feel pain”).
1. Strong desire to meet again someone dear, nostalgia.
2. Aspiration, wish.
3. Suffering caused by loving someone who is far from you.
Common phrases and examples
● a duce dorul (“to miss someone”, “to long for someone”)
Sonia a plecat la studii în străinătate, iar mama sa îi duce dorul.
Sonia went to study abroad and her mother misses her.
● în dorul lelii (“without a purpose, loosely”)
Tamara muncește în dorul lelii, iar rezultatele nu prea se văd.
Tamara hangs loose at work, and the results are rather unremarkable.
● dor de ducă (“itchy feet”, “wanderlust”)
Toma e foarte plictisit de serviciul lui, prin urmare i s-a cam făcut dor de ducă.
Toma is sick and tired of his job, so he’s got itchy feet.
It was as early as 1936 that Romanian philosopher Lucian Blaga stated that dor is simply untranslatable: a Romanian-only thing. (A Germanist, Blaga did concede that sehnsucht might be a poor approximation of what dor is, but he cautioned against missing out on the nuances of such translation. And, anecdotally, as a father Blaga named his daughter Dorli!...)
Supporters of Romance languages, on the other hand, might argue (and with good reason) that dor does have a good equivalent, linguistically as well as emotionally, in Portuguese saudade and Galician/Spanish morriña. Those two words apparently refer to an emotional state of nostalgia for a person or thing that is lost forever. Like them, dor too expresses certain sadness; however, at the same time it implies the hope of seeing the loved-and-missed one again, or experiencing again the thing that made us happy in the past.
Can you spot the word “dor” in this (early ‘90s) song? ;)
Blaga, Lucian. Spaţiul mioritic. Bucureşti: Editura Oficiul de Librărie, 1936. Print.
Vârful cu Dor (The Dor Peak) 2,030m/6,660 ft