Beyond Sad, Mad, and Glad: Words For Grown-Up Emotions

If you’re happy and you know it … good for you. But sometimes the word happy just doesn’t quite describe how you’re feeling, and you need a more nuanced word to convey your emotions or the emotions of someone else.

We learn all the basic words at a young age—sad, mad, glad—but as life goes on, we realize there are many emotions that can be felt in between and beyond these words ... and they don't always rhyme either. Being able to name those feelings is important and can help us process our emotions, express them to others, and learn from them.

Here are some more complex words to consider the next time you’re having trouble describing how you’re feeling.

saudade

This noun describes a feeling that goes beyond just missing someone or something. Saudade is defined as a “deep emotional state of melancholic longing” often for something or someone that is unattainable. 

The term may be traced back to Portuguese folk culture, and there’s no English word that matches its meaning exactly, but it’s akin to a mix of emotions such as nostalgia, yearning, and homesickness.

For example, you might say, “I’m filled with saudade when I think about the days when my grandmother was still alive.”

schadenfreude

Schadenfreude isn’t the kindest emotion we can find ourselves feeling, but we’re human, and schadenfreude happens.

It’s that feeling that makes you want to cheer when someone else fails or something bad happens to them. For example, you might say, “Her schadenfreude was apparent when I tripped and fell in the cafeteria.” 

The word comes from German, combining Schaden, meaning "harm," and Freude, "joy."

misanthropic

When the morning news is filled with horror stories, you get cut off in traffic, or someone lets a door slam in your face, you may feel misanthropic, or angry at the entire human race.

The word stems from the noun misanthropy, which is defined as “a hatred, dislike or distrust of humankind.” If you express this feeling regularly, you may be deemed a misanthrope, when in fact you’re just a plain old grump.

The word can be traced back to the Greek word mīsánthrōpos, meaning "hating mankind."

Beware: misanthropy shouldn’t be confused with misogyny (hatred of women), misandry (hatred of males), or misoneism (hatred of change or new things).

cupidity

When you experience an extreme desire for something, even if you already have enough, you may be feeling cupidity.

Similar to covetousness, it’s a noun defined as “eager or excessive desire, especially to possess something; greed; avarice.”

For example, you might say, “I’m filled with cupidity every time I see a fancy sports car driving past my boring old sedan.”

And yes, cupidity is related to Cupid, that irresistible, mythical god of love personified as a winged baby in the buff who shoots his arrows of romance. Both words ultimately come from the Latin cupere, "to wish, desire, long for."

hygge

Feeling hygge is all about being cozy and comfortable. It’s a relatively new word we've borrowed from Danish around 1960-65. 

We’ve adopted it in the English language as both a noun and an adjective, saying things like, “My bed, with its soft comforter and massive pile of pillows, is so hygge.”

choleric

When tensions run high and things feel out of control, you may be feeling choleric.

As an adjective, it means bad-tempered, extremely irritable, or touchy. For example, you might say to your kids, “Watch out, I’m feeling extremely choleric today, and you don’t want to test me.” 

The word can be traced back to the Greek word choléra, "disease caused by bile"—enough to leave anyone feeling irritable and touchy.

delectation

A happy noun, delectation means "delight or enjoyment." For example, you might hear someone say, "The DJ will be live-streaming an all-night party for your delectation."

The word derives from the Latin word dēlectāre, meaning "to delight." Delectable is also derived from this root.

nostalgic

If you’re feeling nostalgic, you’re wishing you could experience the happiness that something or someone in the past brought you.

For example, you might say, “That song makes me feel nostalgic for the skating rink where I hung out with my friends in junior high.”

The word is based on the Greek root nóstos, “a return home," and álgos, "pain"—homesickness.

WATCH: Kids Redefine Nostalgic Words From Your Past