Sky.Elephant Head
Some time ago, my best friend Liz (now my wife) and I were discussing the burdens of responsibility at work and home, the rush of our lives, the clamor of family.  Each of us spoke of a need to be alone from time to time and the quiet pleasure it can bring.

Time alone allows our minds to rest, our emotions and physical bodies to settle, to breathe.  For her, to peruse recipes, imagine fine meals and cook them at her leisure—and emerge relaxed and recharged.  For me, to let my mind drift and mull.

Peace and relaxed introspection was our common wish.

We could not find a word or phrase that captured the sense of it.   “Alone” or “being alone” weren’t sufficient, for they did not carry a sense of contentment or pleasure.  And the words “lonely” and “loneliness” convey  negative values such as sadness, depression and even anguish—the opposite of what we wanted to express.

Accustomed to playing the occasional word game, we found ourselves working backward from “loneliness”—the antonym, we decided—until it came to us:  Drop the first letter and create an entirely new word: oneliness.  We knew immediately it was a fit.  It was simple, carried positive values, and was almost inherently understandable.  One, onely, oneliness.

One of its best aspects is that it doesn’t drag into consciousness any of the insidiously negative aspects (such as selfishness) so often carried by expressions such as, “alone time,” or, “be by myself.”

Instead of “I want to be alone,” one can say, “I’m ready for some oneliness.”  The underlying message is, “It’s not about you.  I want to spend some time within myself.”

Turns out the word  already exists in some dictionaries, but with the sparest of meanings:  “alone”; “single”.  How dry is that?  And  its form onely doesn’t get mentioned at all.

Here are a couple of definitions that truly warrant the word:  1. a sense of personal contentment, well-being or satisfaction found when one is finally alone; 2. the enjoyment of self  when one is free of the needs and demands of others.

There is more than enough room in the great American lexicon for the quality of experience this one word can convey.

J. S. Anderson

Photo by J. S. Anderson:  Tubac, AZ, looking northeast to Elephant Head

4 Responses to Oneliness

  • Amen and hear, hear! There’s a strong cultural bias in American society against people who actively enjoy being alone, and it can take a long time and a lot of work to make our friends and loved ones understand that, much as we love them, we also love ourselves and enjoy our own company from time to time. You’re blessed to have a mate who feels the same way, and a relationship that leaves you both room for yourselves. This is a wonderful word and concept which I’ll be using myself from now on. Thank you!

  • Yup! I agree wholheartedly. Liking to be alone from time to time is not “against” anyone.
    Just time to completely relax without feelng any obligations for the moment.

  • This is the word! oneliness. Too bad this wasn’t
    around a few years back as our Mother could not understand my sister’s widowhood. My sister was OK with being by herself for all or part of each day. She had had a good marriage, had raised her children and now had time to indulge in her pastimes of Genealogy, reading and knitting. She would tell our Mom she was not lonely, she did not need a friend around all the time, she was content with her life. Oneliness was the word she needed. Good word. I’ll use it often. Thank you J.S.
    Rosalie J. Pearson

    • Thanks for your comment. “Oneliness” carries a greater sense of the contentment and pleasure in time spent alone than any existing word I could find. It’s not for everybody, and it is often misunderstood. For some of us, though, the opportunity to be “onely” carries great value.

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