Etymology: 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. Meaning: Koenig’s definition begins: “The realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own, ” and expands into a brief but beautiful prose poem, like many entries in his dictionary. He likes to say that sonder is the revelation that you are merely an extra in someone else’s story. This story is from Kinfolk Issue Thirty Buy Now Related Stories Arts & Culture Issue 45 The Whole Story The power of cradle-to-grave novels. Arts & Culture Issue 50 Close Knit Close Knit: Meet the weavers keeping traditional Egyptian tapestrymaking alive. Arts & Culture Issue 50 The Old Gays Inside a Californian TikTok “content house” of a very different stripe. Arts & Culture Issue 50 New Roots The Palestinian art and agriculture collective sowing seeds of community. Arts & Culture Issue 50 Angela Trimbur An all-out tour de force. Arts & Culture Issue 50 Peace & Quiet In the UK, a centuries-old Quaker meeting house encourages quiet reflection.