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When Americans say something like, "Are you mad at me?", is there any difference between that and, "Are you angry at me?"

To me, as a Brit, 'mad' means 'insane'. Saying, "Are you mad at me?" should indicate an even greater state of anger than usual, such that it actually drives the person insane.

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Would that not be angry with me and angry at this situation ? – mplungjan Mar 24 '11 at 9:57
You're a madman! It's not a nasty corruption at all. – jbelacqua Mar 25 '11 at 15:20
up vote 5 down vote accepted

The usage of mad to mean "insane" is considered a Briticism in America—go figure. Yet mad is actually a very diverse word. As an adjective, mad can mean insane, furious, rabid, wild, frantic, even hilarious. The use of mad to mean "beside oneself with anger" dates back to the 14th century. Rev. John Witherspoon, a Scottish-born signatory of the Declaration of Independence, dismissed that usage as an "Americanism" in 1781. I guess we Americans have ourselves to blame.

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I thought it was 'Britishism'. – Mitch Mar 25 '11 at 1:08
Briticism; Britishism is considered an alternate form. – HaL Mar 25 '11 at 1:40
This appears to be a Briti-schism. – jbelacqua Mar 25 '11 at 15:16
Wow. This word's got mad definitions, yo. – Callithumpian Mar 25 '11 at 16:34
@jgbelacqua - Brilliant. +1 – HaL Mar 25 '11 at 23:45

I would say the British can use Mad as a synonym for angry - at least locally:


b. Angry, irate, cross. Also, in weakened sense: annoyed, exasperated (with †against, at, with, etc.). Now colloq. (chiefly N. Amer.) and Brit. regional.

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To answer the question, my own American sense of 'mad' vs. 'angry' is that 'mad' is a mild form of 'anger'. If I'm mad at someone, it's a low degree of anger, greater than 'annoyed', but less than outright 'angry'. After 'angry', would come 'really mad'. Then perhaps, 'livid' or 'furious'.

Edit: I also think that perhaps they carry different time frames with them. 'Mad' is more temporary and might be expected to fade sooner.

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As a native Brit, I frequently use Mad to mean both Angry and Insane... particularly when I am at work(!).

I don't think there is much of a trans-Atlantic distinction in meaning.

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You cannot call that as a nasty corruption. Because, the word mad, with the meaning of angry, belongs to American English. A word or phrase of one dialect may sound weird/incorrect for the other.

As a matter of fact, mad to mean angry is still a regional word in UK.

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The word changed in British English, with Americans retaining the original meaning which is now rarely used in the UK. – Charles May 5 '11 at 2:11

An update on the usage of 'mad'-- Beginning in California and moving eastward across the US we have 'mad' as an intensifier: She was mad funny! That was mad crazy. The guy is mad stupid.

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