Is there a single word to describe that mixed feeling of relief and frustration that occurs when you find that stupid, stupid cause of a bug you spent hours searching for?

It’s like being enraged and relieved all at once.

For those people who've never debugged software: it's like how you feel when you've spent hours trying to figure something out, then you figure it out/someone shows you how it should be done. You feel relieved that it's finally done, but extremely frustrated that you've just wasted the last three hours on something so simple and obvious.

Is there a single word that captures that emotion?

  • This is my first post here on English.SE, so constructive criticism is welcomed.
    – Robin
    Commented Jun 1, 2015 at 16:40
  • 1
    Interesting question, but very tough as frustration and relief are not normally linked emotions....
    – tom
    Commented Jun 1, 2015 at 16:42
  • Asking for a single word is likely going to be problematic: lots of opinion involved in which is the right one if, especially if there's no exact correspondence. Using more than one word is how most complex concepts are communicated. There's likely not going to be a single word. They seem to be contradictory emotions: frustration may well be an antonym of relief. Also, what did your search of a thesaurus help you find and why weren't those good enough?
    – Mitch
    Commented Jun 1, 2015 at 16:46
  • @Mitch: I agree about one word being a bit hard. How would I start in a thesaurus when I'm trying to merge two words instead of find alternatives to one?
    – Robin
    Commented Jun 1, 2015 at 16:53
  • 1
    I think the word you're looking for is "relief." I experience what you describe very often, and I'm really just happy to finally find the bug. Any cudgeling I give myself for causing the bug in the first place is secondary and separate.
    – Robusto
    Commented Jun 1, 2015 at 17:32

8 Answers 8


You might describe that feeling as bittersweet:

being at once bitter and sweet; especially : pleasant but including or marked by elements of suffering or regret

  • Nice word, but I think I can speak for all programmers when I say we don't feel "bittersweet" after fixing a dumb bug. Maybe when thinking about our long lost love, but not after realizing what took three hours should've taken ten minutes.
    – Tushar Raj
    Commented Jun 1, 2015 at 17:10
  • @TusharRaj I'm also a programmer, so you can't speak for all of us. :p Commented Jun 1, 2015 at 17:11
  • Tell me you honestly feel bittersweet, hand to God, and I'll delete my comment. I personally just curse myself a lot :)
    – Tushar Raj
    Commented Jun 1, 2015 at 17:12
  • @TusharRaj Haha no need to delete your comment, but yes, I would describe the mixed feeling of frustration and relief as bittersweet. I think you're just more romantic than I am. :p Commented Jun 1, 2015 at 17:17
  • 1
    I wish I could tell you different. Anyway, looks like this is as close as anyone's gonna get. +1.
    – Tushar Raj
    Commented Jun 1, 2015 at 17:20

I'd suggest catharsis/cathartic or excoriation/excoriated. Both imply liberation from negative emotions, coming at the cost of an emotional/physical outburst.


Answer: No

You've certainly identified the perfect use-case for such, but I don't believe there's any single word which truly captures the described mix of exhasperation and elation.

I say it's the perfect use-case because both feelings are directly caused by the same single source (finding the solution) and are inseparable despite being near polar opposites. Perhaps the reason no such word yet exists, is that before the information technology era the closest possible analog to your use-case is spending too long looking for something, upon the discovery of which you realize you should have immediately known its location. While that should be a pretty close match to the feeling by type, it falls short at least a couple orders of magnitude in intensity, not to mention being a far less common occurrence.

Perhaps now's a good time to fill in that linguistic blank.

  • I offer as candidates the portmanteaus "gratistration" (hybrid of gratification and frustration) or "thrage" (hybrid of thrill and rage). Commented Apr 4, 2017 at 20:06

The best I can come up with is drained - in the sense of...

She was completely drained after 4 hours of staring at her computer screen looking for a bug in the computer code. It was a small comfort that the bug was now fixed, but it was frustrating that she had not seen it earlier.

This sort of conveys the emotion, but does not really deal with the relief at the end, but certainly indicates the emotional investment in the work and the effort taken

  • 2
    Drained is totally how you feel right before you solve it. Afterwards you're still a sort of drained, but exhilarated by finally finishing your task.
    – Robin
    Commented Jun 1, 2015 at 16:57


that's how I feel anyway.

It connotes you're relieved, while implying that you had a burden.



The eureka effect (also known as the aha! moment) refers to the common human experience of suddenly understanding a previously incomprehensible problem or concept.

Insight (or Epiphany) is a psychological term that attempts to describe the process in problem solving when a previously unsolvable puzzle becomes suddenly clear and obvious. Often this transition from not understanding to spontaneous comprehension is accompanied by an exclamation of joy or satisfaction, an Aha! moment


"Eureka" is perhaps a little light on conveying the frustration felt, as it's all about the epiphany of finally solving the problem. But frustration is a necessary condition for a true eureka moment.



From Merriam-Webster: "1. simultaneous and contradictory attitudes or feelings (as attraction and repulsion) toward an object, person, or action"

Though this may be too general, as the contradiction need not include the exact emotions that you specified.



Sorry for shouting it, but I came here because I was looking for the same word, and I think it's exasperation.

Just in case you're still feeling exasperated after four and a half years.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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