What is the difference between sadness and sorrow? I researched a lot on internet but the results literally show the same meaning.

If both sadness and sorrow are different, what are their usage?


Sadness is defined in the Oxford dictionary as follows:

sadness /ˈsadnəs /

▸noun [mass noun] the condition or quality of being sad:

a source of great sadness.

[count noun] it is one of life's sadnesses.

It defines sad as:

sad /sad /

adjective (sadder, saddest)

feeling or showing sorrow; unhappy:

I was sad and subdued | theylooked at her with sad, anxious faces.

▪ causing or characterized by sorrow or regret; unfortunate and regrettable:

he told her the sad story of his life | a sad day for us all.

Therefore sadness can be said to be a state or condition of unhappiness.

Sorrow is defined as:

sorrow /ˈsɒrəʊ /

noun [mass noun] a feeling of deep distress caused by loss

disappointment, or other misfortune suffered by oneself or others:

a bereaved person needs time to work through their sorrow.

▪ [count noun] an event or circumstance that causes sorrow:

it was a great sorrow to her when they separated.

▪ the outward expression of grief; lamentation.

verb [no obj.] feel or display deep distress:

(as adj. sorrowing) the sorrowing widower found it hard to relate to his sons.

Therefore in summary sadness is a state of unhappiness while sorrow is a sense of deep distress, disappointment, or sadness.

Therefore it can be concluded that sorrow is a more intense form of sadness, which is the basic feeling of unhappiness.

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As @Kris searched: Sorrow 'is more "intense" than sadness...it implies a long term state'. Example:

I felt sadness after my father died but I live with sorrow since my only son was killed in the war.

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  • Short and to the point. – Siraj Alam Oct 16 '19 at 8:59

James Fernald, Funk & Wagnalls Standard Handbook of Synonyms, Antonyms & Prepositions (1947) lists sadness and sorrow (along with nine other words) as synonyms under the general heading "Grief." Here is how Fernald distinguishes between the two terms:

Grief is acute mental pain resulting from loss, misfortune, or deep disappointment. Grief is more acute and less enduring than sorrow; sorrow and grief are for definite cause; sadness and melancholy may arise from a vague sense of want or loss, from a low state of health, or other ill-defined cause; sadness may be momentary; melancholy is more enduring, and may become chronic.

But sorrow also appears under other general headings, including "Misfortune," "Mourn," and "Repentance," whereas sadness does not.

S.I. Hayakawa, Choose the Right Word: A Modern Guide to Synonyms (1968) has this comment about sorrow as a verb:

Sorrow may suggest milder feelings or a less tragic loss than the foregoing words [grieve, mourn, and lament]; it combines sadness with regret, contrasting with lament by suggesting grieving that is inward or, at most, quietly express: [example omitted].

Hayakawa does not address sadness or sorrow as a noun at all.

Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Synonyms (1984) makes sadness and sorrow the lead words in two separate groups of synonyms—neither of which includes the other. The entry for sadness includes coverage of the related terms depression, melancholy, melancholia, dejection, gloom, blues, and dumps. The entry for sorrow includes coverage of grief, heartache, heartbreak, anguish, woe, and regret. The MW entry for the sadness group offers these remarks:

[The terms related to sadness] are comparable when they mean a state of mind when one is unhappy or low-spirited or an attack of low spirits. Sadness is the general term; apart from the context it carries no explicit suggestions of the cause of the low spirits or of the extent to which one is deprived of cheerfulness [examples omitted]

As for the sorrow group, MW has this:

[The terms related to sorrow], though not close synonyms, share the idea of distress of mind. Sorrow is the most general term, implying a sense of loss or of guilt [examples omitted]

The Merriam-Webster treatment of the two words suggests that the source of confusion between them isn't so much the similarity of the feelings they describe as the level of generality that each word operates on. Sadness is a very general term for feelings of unhappiness or dispiritedness, while sorrow is a very general term for feelings of loss or guilt. Hayakawa seems to see an overlap between sorrow and sadness, but views sorrow as distinguishable by its admixture of regret, which sadness does not centrally possess. Fernald argues that sorrow (being more intensely felt) is traceable to a definite cause, while sadness (being more diffuse) may not be.

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Sorrow is sadness with a more defined reason, i.e. loss, disappointment, bad action of others.

Sadness is a more general sentiment with a less precise definition.

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