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 The Diary of a Word Nerd

  • Writer's pictureGrace Kidder

Ennui: What Is It?

This word has always been a favorite of mine. I think it's such a fun-sounding word for a not-so-fun feeling. "Ennui" (pronounced "on-wee") is "a feeling of weariness and dissatisfaction," according to Merriam-Webster. Many people consider ennui to be synonymous with simple boredom, but it is more closely related to apathy.

“Boredom was not (is not) the same as ennui…Ennui implies a judgment of the universe; boredom, a response to the immediate”.

—Patricia Meyer Spacks, Boredom: The Literary History of a State of Mind (1995)

One of the example usages Merriam-Webster provides really stood out to me today: "the kind of ennui that comes from having too much time on one's hands and too little will to find something productive to do." Sound familiar?

I don't know about you, but I've been feeling a lot of that these past few months—thanks, COVID! Living through a global pandemic is not easy. Our normal routines are all messed up, we get new information thrown at us nearly every day, and our social lives look extremely different (if they exist at all). No wonder so many of us are suffering from ennui!

A Word of the Week graphic with the word "ennui" and its definition.

Just remember to give yourself grace on those days when you're not productive. You don't have to use this time to become a master painter or learn five new languages. If you are doing that, all the more power to you! But if you're just focusing on surviving and staying afloat, that is just as important.

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