I don't know if it's heartless,but when I'm in a situation that is really sad(like a funeral) I always have this urge to laugh.Of course I try not to burst out in laughter but I guess it's how I cope with these things.

Is there a word that can describe this?I don't mind if it would be used for the urge,the behaviour,the feeling.I'm just really interested how to express this kind of thing without having to say that I really,really have to laugh.

  • 2
    One common phrase is "If I didn't laugh, I would cry", but I'm not sure it's completely applicable to the emotion you're describing.
    – Dan Bron
    Nov 28, 2014 at 13:06

5 Answers 5


Nervous-laughter should be a appropriate word. And in a novel I read a word painful-dimples, It sounds compatible too. But painful-dimples kind of word is not heard or seen usually.


The psychological term is "inappropriate affect". Not to make you nervous... but, it can be an indicator of pathology.

  • Inappropriate affect means to experience an inappropriate feeling. The OP said nothing about any feeling experienced. Nov 28, 2014 at 14:53
  • Nope. Inappropriate affect is not about the "feeling"- which may not be easily interpreted or described. It's about the physical "response" to the circumstances not being consistent with what is considered usual or "normal"
    – Oldbag
    Nov 28, 2014 at 15:09
  • 1
    Laughter is one of a very wide range of normal grief-responses, e.g. see tc.columbia.edu/news.htm?articleId=2933 en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grief#Reactions psycnet.apa.org/?&fa=main.doiLanding&doi=10.1037/…
    – A E
    Nov 28, 2014 at 16:06
  • You might want to explain the technical jargon used here. For example, most people know affect as a verb, not a noun; and pathology is best known as the science of cause/effect of disease, rather than "mental or social abnormality or malfunction" (Oxford).
    – Andrew Leach
    Nov 28, 2014 at 16:19
  • I appreciate your answer.Although it seems appropriate,I'm not sure if I want to describe my actions with technical jargon,especially if it hints that I might be a psychopath...*crazy laughter*
    – teair
    Nov 28, 2014 at 17:43

I'd describe that as a fit of hysterical laughter :


  • uncontrollably emotional.

  • irrational from fear, emotion, or an emotional shock.

( from dictionary.reference.com)

  • These descriptions don't match the OP's reported experiences. Nov 29, 2014 at 4:55


to laugh nervously, often at something that you feel you should not be laughing at.

  • A titter has some particular qualities. The OP's description does not suggest tittering, though I do see a relationship in the idea of suppression. google.com.tw/… Nov 29, 2014 at 6:08

Laughter is a highly complex behavior. One term for what you describe might be nervous laughter (if you actually laughed instead of just felt the urge to laugh). But that term is used in various ways, so as far as I know, the best way to describe it is similar to what you did in the question.

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