[ sey-dist, sad-ist ]
/ ˈseɪ dɪst, ˈsæd ɪst /
Save This Word!

Psychiatry. a person who has the condition of sadism, in which one receives sexual gratification from causing pain and degradation to another.
a person who enjoys being cruel.


These are smilar words, and share related meanings, but their uses are very different. Click on the buttons to learn more about these commonly confused words.


What's The Difference Between "Sadist" And "Masochist"?

These commonly confused words are a little sordid ... be prepared to learn the difference between the two.

We could talk until we're blue in the face about this quiz on words for the color "blue," but we think you should take the quiz and find out if you're a whiz at these colorful terms.
Question 1 of 8
Which of the following words describes “sky blue”?
Meet Grammar CoachWrite or paste your essay, email, or story into Grammar Coach and get grammar helpImprove Your Writing
Meet Grammar CoachImprove Your Writing
Write or paste your essay, email, or story into Grammar Coach and get grammar help

Origin of sadist

First recorded in 1890–1920; sad(ism) + -ist
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021


What is a sadist?

The word sadist is used to refer to a person who derives sexual satisfaction from other people’s pain and suffering, especially when they are the one inflicting that pain.

Sadist is also used more generally to refer to a person who enjoys being cruel to others, as in My boss is such a sadist that he enjoys making us work late and not paying us for it.  

The state or condition of being a sadist or engaging in such practices is called sadism. The adjective form is sadistic. Both terms can be used either specifically or generally.

In the context of psychology, the word sadism is used to refer to a disorder in which a person derives sexual pleasure from other people’s pain in a way that harms themselves or harms others without others’ consent. In casual use, such a person may be referred to as a sadist, but like any other disorder, it is usually preferred and recommended to use person-first language, as in a person with a sadism disorder.

The word sadist is often contrasted (or confused) with the word masochist, which refers to a person who gets sexual gratification from being on the receiving end of pain or humiliation, rather than from causing it. Masochism is considered a psychological disorder if the person who engages in such practices experiences distress (such as guilt or anxiety) during them or is unable to otherwise function as a healthy person.

The term sadomasochism combines both terms to refer to sexual practices in which one person is sexually gratified by inflicting pain and the other person is sexually gratified by being the receiver of pain. It is popularly abbreviated as S&M or SM (which appears in the related abbreviation BDSM).

Example: I’m starting to think my teacher is some kind of sadist who enjoys torturing students with homework.

Where does sadist come from?

The first records of the word sadist come from around 1890. The form sadism is older and is based on Marquis de Sade, the title of Donatien Alphonse François, a French novelist known for writing graphic stories involving characters who experience sexual arousal from inflicting pain on others. He was known for engaging in these practices himself.

Did you know … ?

What are some other forms related to sadist?

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

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

What are some words sadist may be commonly confused with?

How is sadist used in real life?

Sadist is most commonly used in a general way to refer to a person who seems to enjoy being cruel. In this way, it is always negative.