I just saw the word "compersion" for the first time, and love it:

A feeling of joy when a loved one invests in and takes pleasure from another romantic or sexual relationship.

Is there a word that means the same thing, but not romantic/sexual? For example, when my best friend has a big win at his job, he's really happy, and I'm super happy for him too. What is the word to express that?

(Interestingly, I think the word I'm seeking is sort of the tangential opposite of schadenfreude, right?)

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    I've never heard of compersion, nor has the Oxford English Dictionary. From where did you get the meaning quoted?
    – WS2
    Commented Jan 16, 2015 at 7:57
  • The 'loved one' is not a friend, a close member of your family etc. But your sexual partner, according to several polyamory websites I read.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jan 16, 2015 at 9:48
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    @Mari-LouA That sounds nonsense to me. Loved ones in the mainstream community (i.e. outside of polyamory) are usually taken to mean children, parents and members of the extended family. Her funeral was attended by her many loved ones, both inside and outside her immediate family.
    – WS2
    Commented Jan 16, 2015 at 18:17
  • @WS2 I limited myself to reporting what I read on those polyamory websites.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jan 16, 2015 at 19:13
  • @Mari-LouA Being boringly monogamous, it is not a subject I would know anything about, I'm afraid.
    – WS2
    Commented Jan 16, 2015 at 19:19

5 Answers 5


If you are OK with Wiktionary as a source then compersion does have the meaning you are looking for.

compersion (uncountable)
1. The feeling of joy one has experiencing another's joy, such as in witnessing a toddler's joy and feeling joy in response.
2. The feeling of joy associated with seeing a loved one love another; contrasted with jealousy.

There are a number of definitions in Wikipedia within the topic of Polyamory and therefore are predisposed to be defined in terms of sexual joy. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polyamory#Compersion

The discussion regarding that page at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk%3ACompersion#Etymology.3F puts forward an etymology of the word offering

... he says it was created by the group via Ouija board (a device of which Kerista made extensive use for decision making), prompted when a couple of the female members were discussing positive feelings they had about their male partners with others and thought "there ought to be a word". It was not consciously invented from any roots.

see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kerista for the Keristans (who also claim polyfidelity and polyintimacy as words of their own coining - but note that these are based on Greek and Latin roots not a Ouija board)

As noted in a comment, there's no mention of it in the OED but there is (the very obsolete - 1500's) conperseyner and compercioner which are variants of comparcioner which has the definition of

One who shares a possession or inheritance with another; a copartner.

I'm not saying that is the origin of compersion but it's not too hard to extend that to simply sharing with another to cover the emotion of joy without the need for the joy to come from sexual activities.

Wiktionary contributors, "compersion," Wiktionary, The Free Dictionary, http://en.wiktionary.org/w/index.php?title=compersion&oldid=31307300 (accessed January 16, 2015).

  • Compercioner became the (legal jargon in 19th and 20th centuries) coparcener, so I think it's a red herring. Commented Aug 18, 2015 at 20:22


The term is largely restricted to the polyamoury community, originating in the Kerista sect of the late 20th Century (Margot Adler's Drawing Down the Moon has some information on Kerista, though mostly incidental to discussing other groups). As defined by them compersion wasn't necessarily about sexual or romantic couplings, though they did claim that polyamory was the way (or at least a way) to live a life with compersion rather than jealousy.

It seems though to be becoming more and more restricted in meaning, as the religious claims of Kerista are less relevant to the people using it, but the question of whether jealousy will arise within a polyamorous relationship, and how to deal with it if it does, makes it a useful term of art for the polyamorous people examining their own situation.


Another term from a religion, but Buddhism is larger and more influential than Kerista and mudita correspondingly much better known (though still relatively obscure as words go generally). Strictly it would mean "the joy available to everyone at all times, from an inner spring of joy" but often interpreted as "joy in the well being and good fortune of others".

So while it would be inaccurate to use the word this way in the context of discussing Buddhism, the word is indeed used exactly as you describe the word you are seeking.

  • I would suggest 'Goodwill' as an opposite to jealousy. I think compersion, how ever you want to stretch it, is largely related to relationships. R
    – user160809
    Commented Feb 17, 2016 at 10:55

Since compersion is both a polyamorous neologism and a word that is not recognized in mainstream dictionaries, you will have to make do with Yiddish, which (as is often the case) has just the word you're looking for. The opposit of schadenfreude is "shepping naches", which means taking joy in the success of others. It is often used in reference to parents and children, or grandparents.

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    This site isn't Yiddish Language & Usage. Suggestions from other languages don't count as valid answers. Commented Jul 11, 2015 at 13:53
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    This would make perhaps the best comment ever. Commented Jul 12, 2015 at 15:25

Interesting. I was introduced to the word compersion by a professor friend of mine who said it meant the experience of joy at the good fortune of others. She contrasted it with envy, which her husband was writing a book about. She did not say anything about polyamory or restriction of the word to relationships. I have found definitions of compersion which fit her definition. I have also heard from friends in the mental health profession that they were familiar with the word compersion, used as I was told.

As a wordsmith, I am pleased to think that English has at least one word to stand against envy and jealousy, whose meanings we are all too familiar with.

I believe compersion describes a real emotion, and I have been and continue to be glad to have a word for the warm feelings of gratitude and joy I feel at the success, or good luck of others whom I value.

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    A new and relevant answer to an old question is always delightful to see. To show that yours is the right answer, it's best to include explanation, context, and supporting facts. For example, you could offer evidence, such as the definition from a good online dictionary, or examples of it in the wild. You could contrast your answer with other answers. This is what makes answers most useful – to the asker, and to future visitors.
    – MetaEd
    Commented Oct 31, 2018 at 21:18

I am a compersion researcher (doing my PhD dissertation on it), and even though the word was coined by a polyamorous community and mostly used in this context for decades, I think it can definitely be used in other contexts!

Check out www.whatiscompersion.com! I speak about this at length there.

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