Is there a word for satisfaction of hearing about justice that does not affect you?

e.g. you hear on the news that a diet foods company has been ordered to compensate customers for deliberately misleading customers into buying their products by making false claims about its benefits.

This makes you pleased as justice has been served however

  • you have never bought or attempted to buy any of the diet products
  • you will not receive any compensation
  • no-one you know has been affected

I suppose this is a mix of satisfaction, a restoring of faith in karma and a sense of the world being "put to rights" and better as a result..?

  • 3
    Do you mean vicarious satisfaction?
    – GMB
    Jul 18, 2014 at 11:37
  • Mr. Browning offers God's in His Heaven - All's right with the world!
    – bib
    Jul 18, 2014 at 12:37

6 Answers 6


Mudita in Buddhism describes appreciative, sympathetic or vicarious joy—"joy in the greatness of others". I've not seen it used outside Buddhism, but it might make a good coinage.

The article also links to the more English-sounding word compersion, but I can't find it in a dictionary or used in a wider context than polyamory, so its existing meaning may be skewed toward the romantic.

  • Not a reasonable answer. Jul 18, 2014 at 16:25
  • I think Mudita might be pretty close to what I was trying to describe
    – Enilorac
    Jul 19, 2014 at 9:55
  • @Edwin Why not?
    – Anko
    Jul 19, 2014 at 19:04
  • 1
    (1) You don't give an answer to the question 'Is there a word for ...' (and to not be off-topic, this has to be an accepted English word. You can't find 'compersion' in a dictionary, and I can't find 'mudita' in one.) (2) You don't give an answer to the question 'Is there a word for [the] satisfaction of hearing about justice that does not affect you [being dealt out?]'. Jul 20, 2014 at 16:13

Shadenfreude is pleasure that they're getting their comeuppance:

Schadenfreude is pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others. This word is taken from German and literally means 'Harm-Joy'. It is the feeling of joy or pleasure when one sees another fail or suffer misfortune.

  • I don't understand why you were downvoted. I think this is an acceptable answer. I added some more information about the word to your post.
    – MrHen
    Jul 18, 2014 at 14:40
  • 1
    I'll not downvote yet, but this is not a good answer. There is no reference to a redress ('comeuppance'). The suffering could be undeserved. Jul 18, 2014 at 16:23
  • And his pleasure may be as much that the former victims are benefiting from compensation as that the company is being (justly) punished.
    – armb
    Jul 18, 2014 at 16:38

I don't think you're going to find a single word for this particular emotion. Words for emotions in English Wikipedia list are most closely tied to the how you're feeling: happy, sad, angry, depressed. You're looking for a word that's a combination of the how (satisfied/happy) and the why (justice has been served).

As such, I think you're going to have to settle for using an adjective or adjective phrase. Some adjectives you could consider are:

  • Vicarious

    experienced or felt by watching, hearing about, or reading about someone else rather than by doing something yourself

vicarious. Merriam-Webster.com. 2014. Encyclopedia Britannica Co. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/vicarious (accessed: July 21, 2014).

  • Karmic - adjective form of Karma, which you seem to be familiar with

As others point out in comments, your particular situation has the added wrinkle in that the source of the satisfaction is ambiguous. Are you feeling satisfied that the victims have been compensated? Or are you feeling satisfied that wrongdoers have been punished? "Receiving justice" after all can be applied equally to the plaintiff and the defendant. Or are you primarily satisfied by seeing the systems itself working?

All of these could trigger a different or better noun to combine with your adjective of choice.

Regarding your comment, since you sway away from any sense of revenge, I'll go out on a limb and propose you're mainly interested in words describing fairness. As such, the most concise phrase that I can think of that describes your scenario exactly is: vicarious, equitable satisfaction.

Vicarious is covered above and elsewhere. Synonyms include: proxy, surrogate, indirect, borrowed, derivate (also derived, derivational), second-hand, provisional, vicarial (especially if religious sentiments are included), sympathetic (buy with an implication of siding with the plaintiff), considerate.

Equitable means characterized by equity or fairness.

eq·ui·ty [ek-wi-tee]
noun, plural eq·ui·ties.
1. the quality of being fair or impartial; fairness; impartiality: the equity of Solomon.
Synonyms: disinterest, equitableness, impartiality, fair-mindedness, fairness, justness, evenhandedness, objectivity; justice, probity. Antonyms: bias, discrimination, inequity, injustice, partiality, partisanship, prejudice, unfairness, unreasonableness; injustice.
2. something that is fair and just: the equities of our criminal-justice system.

equity. Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/equity (accessed: July 21, 2014).

The latin root here is very interesting. Equites were originally horsemen or calvary in the Roman military and were later distinguished as a social class mostly for their citizenship. Equities were eligible to serve on juries, and from there the meanings of fairness and justice were added to the word. Much of modern governance, including the democratic electorate and justice systems, are based on Latin roots as well. In particular, the Maxims of Equity have been a framework for many legal systems and include this gem:

Equity delights to do justice and not by halves.

If you want a term that is less steeped in legal tradition, you could use karmic, cosmic or a suggestion one of the other answers in place of equitable. A discussion of the differences between karma and justice would probably take up as many words as I've already put into this answer. I think it's sufficient for us to know that there are nuances of meaning between them.

Finally, satisfaction is the closest emotion to the scenario you describe, which means:

2 a :  fulfillment of a need or want
    b :  the quality or state of being satisfied : contentment
    c :  a source or means of enjoyment : gratification

Which captures the pleased feeling you describe. However, satisfaction is also a noun for the compensation that the plaintiffs receive, which you expressly state you are not among.

3 a :  compensation for a loss or injury : atonement, restitution
     b :  the discharge of a legal obligation or claim

satisfaction. Merriam-Webster.com. 2014. Encyclopedia Britannica Co. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/satisfaction (accessed: July 21, 2014).

That is why, together with the vicarious & synonyms, it best describes your situation.

  • You're right there probably isn't one word to describe the emotion but I wanted a clearer way of expressing this feeling without coming up with a scenario every time. You ask if it's the justice to the company or the justice to the victims that creates the satisfied feeling but really it's a combination of both as it's not a "revenge" type feeling
    – Enilorac
    Jul 19, 2014 at 9:58

It sounds like you were enjoying a sense of pride that your system of government (of which you are a part) served justice. Because injustice is a more common media topic, we may feel bolstered by such good news.

Imagine that justice were the norm. You would expect the powerful food company to lose their case and, therefore, may not have even noticed the result of the trial.

  • I think bolstered is close to what I'm looking for
    – Enilorac
    Jul 19, 2014 at 10:00

Consider the term retribution

Something justly deserved; recompense. [American Heritage Dictionary]

While this often used to describe a karmic balancing for the person harmed, the concept is also used to describe societal restoration of order, and is considered one of the underlying purposes of legal punishment, as discussed here.

Perhaps In reading about the fines imposed for false advertising, he felt a sense of retribution.

  • I don't think this quite fits. "Retribution" is normally used to description the act, not the feeling. "A sense of retribution" is just an end-run around the actual usage and could apply to anything. See also, "he felt a sense of justice."
    – MrHen
    Jul 18, 2014 at 14:42
  • Again, not a good fit. Jul 18, 2014 at 16:24
  • I agree if I had ordered the company to pay compensation or was receiving the compensation then yes but this is a vicarious feeling so I don't think retribution is the word/phrase I'm looking for
    – Enilorac
    Jul 19, 2014 at 9:59

Compersion The feeling of joy one has experiencing another's joy


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