[ jel-uhs ]
/ ˈdʒɛl əs /
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Definition of jealous

feeling resentment against someone because of that person's rivalry, success, or advantages (often followed by of): He was jealous of his rich brother.
feeling resentment because of another's success, advantage, etc. (often followed by of): He was jealous of his brother's wealth.
characterized by or proceeding from suspicious fears or envious resentment: a jealous rage; jealous intrigues.
inclined to or troubled by suspicions or fears of rivalry, unfaithfulness, etc., as in love or aims: a jealous husband.
solicitous or vigilant in maintaining or guarding something: The American people are jealous of their freedom.
Bible. intolerant of unfaithfulness or rivalry: The Lord is a jealous God.


This Or That: Jealous vs. Envious

Are "jealous" and "envious" synonyms? What is the difference between these two words?

Smoothly step over to these common grammar mistakes that trip many people up. Good luck!
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Fill in the blank: I can’t figure out _____ gave me this gift.

Origin of jealous

1175–1225; Middle English jelous, gelos<Old French gelos (French jaloux) <Vulgar Latin *zēlōsus, equivalent to Late Latin zēl(us) zeal + ōsus-ose1



enviable, envious, jealous

Words nearby jealous

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does jealous mean?

To be jealous is to feel resentment, bitterness, or hostility toward someone because they have something that you don’t.

This feeling or the state of feeling this way is called jealousy. Jealous can describe someone who is feeling or is prone to jealousy. It can also be used to describe such a person’s thoughts or actions.

Feeling jealous usually occurs as a result of someone owning something you want but can’t have or having achieved some kind of success that you want to achieve but have not been able to.

This sense of jealous is very similar in meaning to envious. The word envy refers to a mostly negative feeling of desire for something that someone else has and you do not—like a mix of admiration and discontent. However, while envy is not necessarily malicious, jealousy usually implies a deeper resentment, perhaps because you feel that you deserve the thing more than the other person, or that it is unfair that they have it and you don’t.

Jealous is also used in the context of romantic relationships to describe someone who feels hostility, uneasiness, or distress relating to the fear that their romantic partner will be unfaithful. This often involves opposition to others giving one’s partner positive attention. Being jealous in this way is considered very unhealthy in a relationship. The word is often used applied to partners who act this way, as in jealous husband or jealous girlfriend.

Sometimes, jealous can mean vigilant in maintaining or guarding something. This sense of the word is often used in adverb form, as in The dragon jealously guarded the treasure. 

Example: If your friends feel jealous of you because of your success, they may not be your friends.

Where does jealous come from?

The first records of the word jealous come from around 1200. It ultimately derives from the Greek zēlos, meaning “zeal” (enthusiastic devotion). The words zeal and zealous are based on the same root.

Being jealous usually involves coveting (greedily desiring) what someone else has, such as material possessions, success, fame—even a romantic partner. In the context of romantic relationships, though, being jealous involves feeling the need to intensely guard access to one’s partner in order to prevent perceived threats to the relationship.

In his play Othello, Shakespeare famously calls jealousy a green-eyed monster, which is a way of saying that being jealous is unhealthy and can eat away at you.

Did you know ... ?

What are some other forms related to jealous?

  • jealously (adverb)
  • jealousness (noun)
  • jealousy (noun)

What are some synonyms for jealous?

What are some words that share a root or word element with jealous


What are some words that often get used in discussing jealous?

What are some words jealous may be commonly confused with?

How is jealous used in real life?

Being jealous commonly involves resentment relating to possessions, success, and romantic partners.



Try using jealous!

True or False? 

Feeling jealous is usually considered a negative and unhealthy feeling.

How to use jealous in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for jealous

/ (ˈdʒɛləs) /

suspicious or fearful of being displaced by a rivala jealous lover
(often postpositive and foll by of) resentful (of) or vindictive (towards), esp through envya child jealous of his brother
(often postpositive and foll by of) possessive and watchful in the maintenance or protection (of)jealous of one's reputation
characterized by or resulting from jealousy
obsolete, or biblical demanding exclusive loyaltya jealous God
an obsolete word for zealous

Derived forms of jealous

jealously, adverbjealousness, noun

Word Origin for jealous

C13: from Old French gelos, from Medieval Latin zēlōsus, from Late Latin zēlus emulation, jealousy, from Greek zēlos zeal
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012