Is there a more colloquial synonym for "schadenfreude"? I'm specifically looking for a noun that denotes a pleasure derived from other people's misfortunes or sufferings. Sadly, I couldn't find any nouns derived from 'to gloat'.

What I have in mind is a plain English word derived from Middle English, Anglo-Norman, Old English, Dutch or Old French. It must be none of the following:

  1. Informal contemporary term (e.g. "lulz")
  2. Loan-word that sounds ostensibly alien (e.g. "schadenfreude", "epicaricacy")
  3. An item of the professional jargon (e.g. some psychological condition)

I'm looking for something plain and simple like 'eviljoy'* (a word that I've just made up).

This word must fit the variable in the sentence "It is common for Jane to feel/experience x ". A word is deemed to fit x on the basis of 'common-sense' linguistic intuition in addition to being a singular noun + the above-stated conditions.

To elaborate on the intuition bit, 'sadism', for instance, is not applicable, neither is gloating. For, if we input the former, then we have "It is common for Jane to feel sadism'. This obviously doesn't sound right, and 'sadistic' would be appropriate, were I not looking for a noun. If the latter is used, then "It is common for Jane to feel gloating" also sounds pretty awkward.

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    "Masochism" wouldn't work. It's the exact opposite of "schadenfreude" or "sadism".
    – duskn
    Commented May 14, 2015 at 21:05
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    Sadism is inflicting pain and misfortune on others. Schadenfreude most often comes from watching them inflict it on themselves. Is it gloating? Not really -- that comes from being vindicated. There really is only one word which expresses what schadenfreude does.
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented May 14, 2015 at 21:13
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    Thanks for your comment, Waterbagel, but I couldn't find the word I was looking for on that thread :(
    – duskn
    Commented May 14, 2015 at 21:25
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    @duskn: But the English language mainly got that rich because it strongly borrowed words from all sorts of other languages. And languages have a tendency not to borrow without need, in particular I have the feeling that English borrowed comparably little from German (given their political, linguistic and geographical relation). Thus I would be very suprised if a satisfying answer to your question existed.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented May 14, 2015 at 21:33
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    @Wrzlprmft, That's absolutely true, but this word must somehow exist in English! I speak a number of languages and all of them feature this term, and it's not a loan word in any of them. ('Zloradstvo' in Russian, 'schadenfreude' in German, "komşuya gülme" in Turkish, etc.)
    – duskn
    Commented May 14, 2015 at 21:44

5 Answers 5


Since the essential quality of schadenfreude is passive enjoyment from a safe distance of the suffering or misfortune of others, I think that the most apt way to express the idea in English might be with the phrase armchair malice.

The underlying notion of armchair here is similar to its sense in the established U.S. English phrase armchair quarterback, which, according to Dictionary.com, refers to

a person who offers advice or an opinion on something in which they have no expertise or involvement

Armchair malice likewise comes from a position of (relative) ease, away from the fray, and with no sense of responsibility for the debacle that unfolds before one's unsympathetic yet delighted eyes.

As for the word malice itself, a usage note in Merriam-Webster's Eleventh Collegiate Dictionary (2003) makes this point:

MALICE implies a deep-seated often unexplainable desire to see another suffer.

Put armchair and malice together, and you get something roughly equivalent to the cold-blooded, essentially voyeuristic pleasure of schadenfreude.


No, there is no such word.

The word 'Schadenfreude' was borrowed from the German where it means the joy felt at someone else's misfortune. It first appeared in German in the 16th c, not as some ancient word from the Proto-Germanic homeland, but (most probably) from the usual German strategy of deliberately mushing words together.

There is nothing stopping English from having a word for a complex concept, witness 'jealousy' and 'envy', very common but complex ideas. But there's also no guarantee.

There's a term (not a single word) for the lack of a term in a language. That is called a lexical gap which means an expectation of a word but it doesn't exist. For example, there's a gender neutral term for 'brother' or 'sister' which is 'sibling', but there's no gender neutral word for 'uncle' and 'aunt'. And in comparison with other languages, say Mandarin, English has numerous gaps for other kinship terms like older vs younger brother or sister, or mother's vs father's brother or sister.

But for 'schadenfreude' I wouldn't say this lack is much of a gap. All the languages that have a word for it either use that exact word or make a loan translation of 'schaden' (harm) and 'freude' (joy). And those languages are all 'large' languages (many speakers with a long complicated cultural history with large educated vocabularies. That is to say that the gap is filled in these other languages from the German neologism.

To say there is no such word is maybe a bit over-confident. A negative is hard to prove. A positive is much easier; you just take a suggested word and check. For a negative you have to check all words. I haven't done that. I could rely on my own internal feeling that there is nothing like that word based on having nothing immediately come to mind (trusting my years long native experience with English) and meta-reasoning that if there were a word already there'd be no reason to borrow) but those are not particularly trustworthy by others and not really transferable.

What is verifiable though is that one can check the suggestions made by on-line dictionaries and thesauruses. For the word 'Schadenfreude' they give many synonyms for joy, but none anywhere near the sweet and sour complexity of joy at someone else's misfortune.

  • Well, if you have read my comments to the question, then you'd have seen that I'm giving examples from Russian (zloradstvo, 'zlo' - evil, 'radost' = happiness) and Turkish (komşuya gülme) that are neither loan-words nor neologisms. There are also dozens of cognates in kindred Slavic and Turkic languages. Both are formed on the same pattern of 'mushing words together", as is 'schadenfreude', ('schaden' = 'harm', 'freude' = 'joy') as you've correctly pointed out. Hence I was looking for something resembling my fictive 'eviljoy'*.
    – duskn
    Commented May 14, 2015 at 22:32
  • Also, your meta-reasoning is flawed. There are dozens of counter-examples to it - you have the word 'boredom' and then you have 'ennui' borrowed at a later date.
    – duskn
    Commented May 14, 2015 at 22:36
  • No I didn't see that recent comment. Interesting. I'd guess that those are loan translations though rather than them coming up with the combination together.
    – Mitch
    Commented May 14, 2015 at 22:37
  • I think the Turkish one is far more likelier to be the loan translation than the Russian.
    – duskn
    Commented May 14, 2015 at 22:41
  • Touché on the meta-reasoning. There's lots of English-French pairs from the Norman conquest, from 14c academic Latinate words, and recent intellectual borrowing.
    – Mitch
    Commented May 14, 2015 at 22:51

Though not as definitive as schadenfreude, I like "smug" for your example in that a person feeling schadenfreude also feels smug in knowing that the hurt party got what they deserved or that they (the one feeling schadenfreude) feels they could have predicted whatever it was that befell the hurt party.

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    Thanks for your answer, Kristina! I thought of "smug" as well, but found its domain of referents to be over-inclusive. Whenever I experience schadenfreude, I also feel smug. However, it's not the case that whenever I feel smug, I experience schadenfreude.
    – duskn
    Commented May 14, 2015 at 21:47
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    Still up-voted your answer :)
    – duskn
    Commented May 14, 2015 at 21:53
  • Thanks @duskn, and I agree that when feeling smug, one doesn't always feel schadenfreude - but that's the closest I have come to something synonymous. Commented May 14, 2015 at 23:02

Try the word "gloat" which is defined as:

to dwell on one's own success or another's misfortune with smugness or malignant pleasure: 'his enemies gloated over his death'.

[Oxford Online Dictionary]

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    Hi, tina, Welcome to EL&U. Please see the edit I made. It is not encouraged to post an answer without any research/reference/link that can support it. Please make sure that you take the tour and visit our help center for additional guidance.
    – user140086
    Commented Jan 21, 2016 at 8:19
  • It's close. I think to "gloat" means to actively express your schadenfreude. You can feel schadenfreude without telling anyone (often a good idea not to tell), you can't gloat without telling.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Jul 27, 2016 at 15:43


Not in the OED but in reasonably common usage.

  • It doesn't sound 'more colloquial' to me and you have not proved it exists.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Dec 1, 2017 at 14:41

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