When I was reading P.S Your Cat is Dead by James Kirkwood, I remember stumbling upon a single word that meant an explosion of positive emotion, but I can't recall what that word was. The word had a heavily positive connotation. Any ideas?

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    All I can think of is something like an impassioned outburst.
    – WS2
    Jul 28, 2015 at 16:20
  • If they are happy emotions, you could say you are over the moon.
    – Vlammuh
    Jul 28, 2015 at 16:25
  • How about bubbles of positive emotions effervescent :)
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jul 29, 2015 at 6:27
  • Quoting from the novel: "My expression must have said it all. The look on my face fractured him. He reared back, howling in laughter. This sudden explosion riled me ..." If this is the passage you mean, my response would be that "fracture" is being used figuratively to mean "amuse". At least one dictionary lists this as slang. I suppose the figurative meaning is descriptive of how laughter can suddenly "break out" of a person.
    – MetaEd
    Mar 16, 2016 at 23:05

8 Answers 8


Such an explosion of emotion can sometimes be referred to as an outpouring of emotion. Merriam-Webster has:

Outpouring(n): an act of expressing an emotion or feeling in a very powerful way

  • Does this word carry a positive charge? Or is it neutral? Or does it carry an undercurrent of negativity like effusion? I'm double checking because I'm looking for a word strictly with a positive connotation. Jul 29, 2015 at 17:10
  • When you say "positive connotation", do you mean in the sense of the emotion itself, or judgement upon the person experiencing the emotion? "Outpouring" doesn't generally imply any kind of judgement upon the outpourer. Even when used with unpleasant emotions, like "outpouring of grief", it does not imply that the emotional display is inappropriate. Other terms (like "outburst") can imply judgement.
    – Sawbones
    Jul 29, 2015 at 17:22

Wellsprings of emotion can gush, erupt, or just about any word that would describe the action of a pent-up liquid escaping/flowing from its source. (Google books & Standard/net)

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    "outpouring" also fits the pattern of a emotion = pent-up liquid.
    – Sawbones
    Jul 28, 2015 at 17:10
  • @Sawbones Wow, that's certainly better than my two and worthy of its own submission as an answer, imo.
    – Papa Poule
    Jul 28, 2015 at 17:19
  • Thanks -- I'd never noticed the pattern of emotion=pent-up liquid before, but it holds for almost every word I can think of
    – Sawbones
    Jul 28, 2015 at 18:07

euphoria (noun):

a feeling or state of intense excitement and happiness

'Even thinking about seeing it brings a feeling of euphoria so intense that I'm having to resist the urge to go and lie down.'

Source: ODO

Further information is available at: Wiki

  • I can't accept this because it doesn't have the element of explosiveness I was asking for, but it does have a strong positive charge so it is half right. Jul 29, 2015 at 17:13
  • Hi @KevinBehan there are several words that describe intense joy and pleasure, but other than 'euphoric', the only ones I can think of as possibly'explosive', are 'ecstasy/ecstatic' and 'orgasm/orgasmic'. I considered 'exuberance', but it really means 'full of fun' and 'boisterous/energetic', so it doesn't apply to extreme levels of emotion. Euphoria is usually, but not always, spontaneous. Jul 29, 2015 at 17:43

"Effusion" is defined by Merriam-Webster as "[an] unrestrained expression of words or feelings".

  • Effusive typically has a negative connotation. Jul 28, 2015 at 19:06
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    If so, I was not aware of it. Jul 28, 2015 at 19:11

Your question covers explosion as something experienced, for which one of these words might be suitable

Aflame, galvanised,

galvanising (adj) vocabulary.com
affected by emotion as if by electricity; thrilling

...and dramatic displays of emotion, for which these would be more suitable

displayed paroxysms of mirth, rage, panic...

paroxysm: (noun) oxforddictionaries A sudden attack or outburst of a particular emotion or activity

On the more positive, cheerful side (with nuance in brackets)

ebullience (jolly), exhilaration(full of joy), exuberance(bouncy).
based on thesaurus.com

  • 1
    I very much appreciate the thoroughness of your response and I apologize for revising my question. I just remembered that it was an explosion of positive emotion. Jul 28, 2015 at 17:34
  • Paroxysms is very close, but I feel like the connotation is negative (am I wrong in thinking that?) Although ebullience, exuberance and exhilaration capture the right feeling, I chose the word explosion because I'm looking for more of a verb than an adjective. Jul 28, 2015 at 20:18
  • @KevinBehan I've heard paroxysms of mirth most often. But ="helpless with laughter.' Fairly sure that James Kirkwood did not use that word. Upwelling is more likely. Or exuberance, if I had to bet.
    – Hugh
    Jul 29, 2015 at 0:28

Quoting from the novel:

My expression must have said it all. The look on my face fractured him. He reared back, howling in laughter. This sudden explosion riled me

In this passage, fracture is being used figuratively to mean amuse. At least one dictionary lists this meaning, labeling it slang. I suppose the figurative meaning is descriptive of laughter suddenly “breaking out” of a person.

Locating a forgotten word in a book can often be accomplished by going to the book’s page in Google Book Search and using the search box to search within the book. In this case the search word explosion quickly located the passage.


Catharsis? The first word that came to mind, and I don't see it listed!

  • 5
    Welcome to EL&U. Please note that an answer at StackExchange is expected to be definitive — yours should provide a complete explanation of why you suggest catharsis, including appropriate references and examples. I strongly encourage you to take the site tour and review the help center for additional guidance.
    – choster
    Mar 15, 2016 at 15:52
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    I think catharsis is a very reasonable suggestion—but as choster says, at this site we strongly prefer answers that don't require readers to go elsewhere to determine whether a suggested single-word answer makes sense. By providing a self-contained answer with reputable support (such as a dictionary definition), you will greatly strengthen your posted response.
    – Sven Yargs
    Mar 15, 2016 at 23:58

epiphany noun: 3a (1) a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something (2) an intuitive grasp of reality through something (as an event) usually simple and striking (3) an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure. (Merriam-Webster online)

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    An epiphany is more of an intellectual explosion, so to speak, than an emotional one. But I do appreciate your response! Jul 29, 2015 at 17:08
  • Thanks Kev, but an epiphany is not limited to a strictly cognitive experience. Though epiphaniesoften begin with an intellectual breakthrough, they often, even usually, lead to emotional ecstasy. Epiphany may not be the word you're looking for, but don't imagine the experience is merely intellectual.
    – user98990
    Jul 29, 2015 at 20:56

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