I am looking for an adjective that describes a person who is not willing to forgive or excuse someone's faults or wrong-doings from the past (other than "unforgiving"). For the ones who speak German, that word would be "nachtragend".

18 Answers 18



  • Full of, characterized by, or inclined to feel indignant ill will.
  • 3
    This doesn't carry the meaning of "past wrongdoing". Success can engender resentment with no wrongdoing whatsoever. – Ben Voigt Feb 13 '15 at 22:42
  • Resentment :Indignation or ill will stemming from a feeling of having been wronged or offended. thefreedictionary.com/Resentment – user66974 Feb 13 '15 at 22:49
  • 3
    ... and that goes on to mention causes such as envy "begrudging admiration" that have nothing to do with wrongdoing. In that case, there is "a feeling of having been wronged by the world/society/fate/fortune", which does not require the target of resentment to have done wrong. – Ben Voigt Feb 13 '15 at 22:53
  • Resentment: a feeling of displeasure or indignation at someone or something regarded as the cause of injury or insult; pique; irritation.thefreedictionary.com/Resentment – user66974 Feb 13 '15 at 23:06

In contrast with the more technical options presented in most other answers, and yet also hinted at in a few of those same answers: consider bitter, the emotional state of someone experiencing the hardships you describe. I think it fits the bill pretty closely and is also well-suited for casual, contemporary conversation. It's succinct, relatable regardless of your vocabulary, and even a little poetic I'd say.


When the feeling includes wanting to do something about it, vindictive

Having or showing a strong or unreasoning desire for revenge: the criticism was both vindictive and personalized

Oxford Dictionaries Online

  • 4
    The significance of revenge in this word's meaning would make it out-of-place if Gunter's intent doesn't include revenge. – talrnu Feb 12 '15 at 19:45
  • 2
    @talrnu I agree in part. A yearning for revenge (even if there were no real intent to act) would be encompassed, but a mere resentment and anger would not. – bib Feb 13 '15 at 15:25


  1. incapable of being placated or pacified; unappeasable

  2. inflexible; intractable - Collins Dictionary

Additional synonyms:

ruthless, cruel, relentless, uncompromising...unrelenting, merciless, unforgiving, inexorable, unyielding, remorseless, pitiless, unbending... - Collins Thesaurus


My family would say the person is still "stewing" about it. I don't know if this is just an American idiom but I suspect not since there are so many other countries who make stew. The term means "a slow boil" literally. So it can refer to anger, agitation, or worry. But, I have used it for "holding a grudge". Have you considered "negatively invested"?

  • We use stewing too. – Tim Feb 13 '15 at 13:56

In addition to bib's excellent suggestion vindictive, you might consider rancorous, which Merriam-Webster's Eleventh Collegiate Dictionary (2003) defines thus:

rancorous adj. (ca. 1570) marked by rancor [defined by MW as "bitter, deep-seated ill will"] : deeply malevolent {rancorous envy}

S.I. Hayakawa, Choose the Right Word (1968) distinguishes between vindictive and rancorous as follows:

Vindictive means spitefully vengeful, and suggests the harboring of grudges for imagined wrongs until the vindictive person, with satisfaction and perhaps even enjoyment, sees the object of his hatred suffer. ... Rancorous suggests a festering ill will, perhaps stemming from resentment, over some real or fancied wrong. It does not, however, like vindictive and spiteful, necessarily imply a desire to hurt—only a deep-seated malice.

It's interesting that, in Hayakawa's telling, vindictive, rancorous, and unforgiving span a wide range of possibilities as to the legitimacy of the grudge, from "imagined wrong" in the case of vindictive to "real or fancied wrong" in the case of rancorous to actual injury in the case of unforgiving (since forgiveness doesn't make sense in situations where there is no wrong to forgive).

  • One of my favorite words! I like to imagine Jabba's rancor is a bit rancorous... – talrnu Feb 12 '15 at 19:48
  • Lovely! I was thinking of begrudging and the like, but rancorous is a much better choice. – andy256 Feb 15 '15 at 0:58

Resentful and vindictive are great. Many people commonly use bitter too.

5. characterized by intense antagonism or hostility:
     bitter hatred.
6. hard to admit or accept:
     a bitter lesson.
7. resentful or cynical:
     bitter words.

E.g.: "A poorly treated child is commonly a bitter adult to his parents."


"A poorly treated child commonly treats his parents bitterly once an adult."


You have two good options in your question, IMHO - Unforgiving, which you don't want to use, and Grudge Holder, which isn't an idiom in any dictionary I can find, but communicates what you want to say.

As for other suggestions available at the time of writing, Vindictive and Vengeful go the extra action or intention into vengeance, Resentful could be short term, or specific, and Implacable doesn't really communicate the same thing, it's more an innate inability, less an intentional entrenching into bitterness.

  • 2
    Grudges are nursed, idiomatically. – twip Feb 12 '15 at 19:10
  • 1
    @twip Grudges are also held, idiomatically. Different connotations. – WinnieNicklaus Feb 12 '15 at 19:33
  • @twip Grudge nurser conjures imagery which I imagine is poorly aligned with Gunter's intent. I, for one, love it. – talrnu Feb 12 '15 at 19:37

The closest answer is surely grudge-bearing.


1. Desiring vengeance; vindictive
2. Characterized by or stemming from a desire for revenge


To begrudge Or maybe to resent

  1. revengeful: full of or prone to revenge; determined to get even; eager for revenge.

  2. spiteful: full of or motivated by spite; vindictive, full of spite or malice; showing spite; malicious; malevolent; venomous.


pissed off and revengeful/and bent on revenge. A word of elevated style for German nachtragend would be begrudging - too literary in my view.

  • Begrudging was actually my first thought, +1 for that. – talrnu Feb 12 '15 at 19:46


noun 1. a private feud in which the members of the family of a murdered person seek to avenge the murder by killing the slayer or one of the slayer's relatives, especially such vengeance as once practiced in Corsica and parts of Italy. 2. any prolonged and bitter feud, rivalry, contention, or the like: a political vendetta.


Sulking may be what you are looking for:

be silent, morose, and bad-tempered out of annoyance or disappointment.

-- Google Dictionary

In fact, one of the listed synonyms is to "harbour a grudge"


What about bemoan

Bemoan transitive verb 1 :to express deep grief or distress over 2 :to regard with displeasure, disapproval, or regret

It's holds a subtle meaning of holding a grudge: making it softer than the other words mentioned. You've got a really nice list of words to choose from.


My first thought was bitter too, but its derivative embittered is probably closer to the OP's original request.



Not placable; not to be appeased; not to be pacified or reconciled; inexorable: as, an implacable prince; implacable malice.

  • And the reference...? – Neeku Feb 14 '15 at 19:06

protected by tchrist Feb 14 '15 at 20:49

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

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