Sonder UP188

Sonder n. the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.

Sonder is a neologism, coined by John Koenig for his online Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows. As such it has no evolution to trace. A pleasing folk etymology might be the combination of the verb sound, to “ascertain the depth of water,” and wonder, an “astonishing or marvelous thing.” Many alternatives have been proposed by the dictionary’s devotees. It cannot be found in any official dictionary, except in some other languages such as Afrikaans and French where it has different meanings.