WATCH: How Do You Use The Words "Nauseous" And "Nauseated"?
Nauseous and nauseated originally had different definitions. In current common usage, though, the words have evolved to become practically interchangeable. Let’s explore the differences between the two a bit closer.
What does nauseous mean?
The word nauseous describes “something that causes a feeling of nausea or disgust.” Here’s an example: “The nauseous odor made the boy feel sick.” In this sentence, the word nauseous modifies the noun odor, and it explains that the odor was sickening. In everyday speech, the word most often means the actual feeling of nausea.
Nauseous can also mean the same thing as nauseating—causing nausea. It also be used in a figurative way meaning a feeling of disgust, revulsion, or repulsion, and nauseous can be used to describe things that make people feel this way, meaning about the same thing as disgusting or loathsome. However, nauseous is much less commonly used this way (despite the fact that some people insist that it’s the “proper” use of the word).
Look at this example: “The odor made the boy feel nauseous.” In this sense, the adjective nauseous modifies the boy, but it doesn’t mean that the boy himself is sickening or revolting. It simply means that the boy is feeling sick to his stomach.
The first records of the word nauseous come from around 1600. It is thought to derive from the Greek nausíā, meaning “seasickness,” from naûs, meaning “ship” (the same root is the basis of the word nautical). The suffix -ous means “full of” and is used to form adjectives.
People can become nauseous from seasickness and many other conditions that affect the stomach, such as motion sickness, morning sickness, carsickness, anxiety, or from the side effects of medications. People often feel nauseous due to something they ate. When you’re nauseous, the very thought of eating can make you even more nauseous.
What does nauseated mean?
Nauseated means “to become affected with nausea.” This is the traditional way to use the word nauseated. For example, if you were feeling sick to your stomach, you would say, “I’m feeling nauseated.”
Nauseated (or when it’ s used in the past tense of the verb as nauseate) also means “to create a feeling of nausea,” as in “The experience nauseated him.” In this sense, nauseated is used to explain what the experience did to him: It made him feel sick.
In all of these cases, the word nauseous is probably more commonly used, whereas nauseated is more commonly used to describe someone who feels disgust toward someone or something.
Similarly to nauseous, the first records of the adjective nauseated come from the 1600s.
How to use each word
The word nauseated means “to be affected with nausea” or “to feel sick to your stomach.” Nauseous describes “something that causes a feeling of nausea.” These words have the same root word, nausea, a Latin word that refers specifically to seasickness.
So how should you use each word out there in the real world?
Well, strict grammarians may claim that nauseous describes something that creates a feeling of sickness or revulsion, and that nauseated means “to feel ill.” However, common usage actually reverses these two meanings, and the reversal has become so popular that many dictionaries now carry both meanings for both of these words, making them virtually interchangeable.
So that means … you can use these words any way you please when it comes to feeling sick to your stomach. Phew, something about English made simple.