I was surprised to find that angst - the perfect word to describe both teenage attitudes and what I feel whenever I think about philosophy - is a relatively new word, first being used in English in the 1940s (it had shown up a few times before then, but always in context as a foreign term). That's often attributed as coming from Søren Kierkegaard, who was the first to use it to describe a philosophical dilemma, specifically his feelings about moral freedom and religion in his book The Concept of Anxiety (and that was extended to things like existential dread by other authors). Kierkegaard got the word from Dutch angest, meaning "anxiety", and angest is reconstructed as being from the Proto-Germanic and Proto-Indo-European roots angustu and angh, both meaning something like "painful".
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a senior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.