5

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.

5
  • Would that not be angry with me and angry at this situation ?
    – mplungjan
    Commented Mar 24, 2011 at 9:57
  • You're a madman! It's not a nasty corruption at all.
    – jbelacqua
    Commented Mar 25, 2011 at 15:20
  • You must have your tongue in your cheek to ask such a simple question as a native speaker....
    – Lambie
    Commented Apr 17, 2021 at 23:01
  • It should be understood that there is "Mad Magazine", a satire magazine that was first published in the 50s and which gained great popularity with teenagers. It caused "mad" to gain several different meanings.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Nov 5, 2023 at 22:46
  • 'It should be noted, however, that Shakespeare used mad to mean “crazy” much more frequently than he used it to mean “angry.”' M-W
    – DjinTonic
    Commented Nov 6, 2023 at 15:17

8 Answers 8

6

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.

6
  • I thought it was 'Britishism'.
    – Mitch
    Commented Mar 25, 2011 at 1:08
  • 2
    Briticism; Britishism is considered an alternate form.
    – HaL
    Commented Mar 25, 2011 at 1:40
  • 8
    This appears to be a Briti-schism.
    – jbelacqua
    Commented Mar 25, 2011 at 15:16
  • 2
    Wow. This word's got mad definitions, yo. Commented Mar 25, 2011 at 16:34
  • @jgbelacqua - Brilliant. +1
    – HaL
    Commented Mar 25, 2011 at 23:45
5

I would say the British can use Mad as a synonym for angry – at least locally. According to the OED:

6b. Angry, irate, cross. Also, in weakened sense: annoyed, exasperated (with †against, at, with, etc.). Now colloq. (chiefly N. Amer.) and Brit. regional.

3

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.

2

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.

1
  • 1
    "Mad" is certainly often used of quite trivial upsets. "Angry" isn't very serious either - it's often qualified as "very angry" which suggests that without "very" it's mild, and there are more serious words like "irate" or "livid".
    – Stuart F
    Commented Nov 5, 2023 at 19:07
1

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.

1
  • 1
    The word changed in British English, with Americans retaining the original meaning which is now rarely used in the UK.
    – Charles
    Commented May 5, 2011 at 2:11
0

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.

1
  • We do? Reference for the existence of that geographical difference?
    – Drew
    Commented Nov 6, 2023 at 18:09
0

American children usually say “mad.” American adults generally say “angry,” and are likely to know the difference. A right-wing millionaire here in Texas had a radio campaign in the 1970’s that went, “I’m Eddie Chiles, and I’m mad!” He was, of course, angry about what he perceived as left-wing nonsense, but in his case, maybe he was so angry that it bordered on insanity.

Of course, Americans also use mad in its more traditional sense. A mad dog is a rabid dog, a madman is a lunatic, a mad cow has BSE, and madcap means pushing the edge of reason.

1
  • 'American adults generally say “angry,” and are likely to know the difference.' As one American, I disagree with both assertions.
    – Drew
    Commented Nov 6, 2023 at 18:08
0

As a kid I would use the word mad when I was disturbed. As an adult I've moved towards using it more for mental state; insane.

1
  • 1
    Without knowing where you grew up it's difficult to see how this answers the question. Commented Apr 17, 2021 at 22:01

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.