Difference Between Melancholy and Nostalgia

Main Difference – Melancholy vs Nostalgia

The terms Nostalgia and Melancholy are often used interchangeably since they share several similar features, but it is important to identify the line of demarcation between them, in order to get a clear understanding as to what these distinctly refer to and how they can be used to describe the feelings of a certain individual. The main difference between melancholy and nostalgia is that melancholy refers to a gloomy state of mind whereas nostalgia refers to longing for or remembering the past.

This article covers,

1. What is Melancholy? – Definition, Features, and Characteristics 

2. What is Nostalgia? – Definition, Features, and Characteristics 

3. What is the difference between Melancholy and Nostalgia?Difference Between Melancholy and Nostalgia - Melancholy vs Nostalgia Comparison Summary

What is Melancholy

Melancholy is defined as a gloomy state of mind, usually habitual or prolonged, including one or more of the features of depression, sober thoughtfulness or pensiveness.

According to old and outdated medicinal system which put forward a theory of 4 parts on which the human body is built up on and that various diseases are the result of excess or deficient levels of one of those, melancholy was caused by an excess of black bile; it was identified as a set of emotions and thoughts involving morose or gloomy nature mostly associated with ill-humor.

However, ‘melancholy’ was later on identified as a deep extent of sadness which could arise due to a several number of unclear or undefinable events or without any particular causative scenario.

When a person is going through episodes of melancholy for a long period of time, it is highly likely to give rise to depression. Thus, Melancholy is known as a common symptom of depression.


A girl thinking about an event occurred in the past; loss of a loved one due to cancer where she is obviously experiencing some sad emotions which can be referred to as melancholy.

Typically, she has no idea as to why she is feeling deeply sad; is it because she lost her loved one, is it because she misses all the good times with that person or due to some extremely unrelated cause which is thought to be masked by the loss.

Difference Between Melancholy and Nostalgia

What is Nostalgia

This is defined as a feeling which arises due to longing or remembering of the past. Moreover, according to ancient literature, this is explained as a ‘wistful desire to return in thought or in fact to a former time in one’s life, to one’s home or homeland, or to one’s family and friends, a sentimental yearning for the happiness of a former place or time.’


A boy is becoming nostalgic when thinking about the good memories associated with his school days such as swimming in the lake with friends and hiking in the mountains full of early morning mist.

Interestingly, people often think about the past in a favorable manner and may even want to go back in time and re-experience those moments for good.

Main Difference - Melancholy vs Nostalgia

Difference Between Melancholy and Nostalgia

These terms are often used interchangeably due to the lack of in-depth knowledge about the distinguishing features.


As far as the definitions are concerned,

Melancholy refers to a deep sadness or gloom.

Nostalgia refers to a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with blissful personal relationships.

Important: A person can be nostalgic without being melancholic, and melancholic without being nostalgic since melancholy can be caused by many things.

Feelings and Emotions 

A nostalgic person can either be happy or sad, thinking about joyful events took place in the past.

Melancholy is often associated with sadness or deep gloominess.

Additionally, the feeling of nostalgia will often motivate a person to go back in time and re-live a certain happy moment, which can either give rise to extreme happiness or sadness.

In contrast, melancholy will make a person to be in continuous sadness, no matter what the reason is.

Symptom of Depression

Melancholy can be a symptom of depression

Nostalgia has no such association.

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About the Author: Embogama

Embogama is a passionate freelance writer for several years. Her areas of interest include general medicine, clinical medicine, health and fitness, Ayurveda medicine, psychology, counseling and piano music