Imagine your college buddy is now running a multi-billion dollar company, while you're still stuck at the same white-collar day job 5 years after graduation. You chat with him and want to express the idea that you're happy for him and fancy having his lifestyle--something like "I wish I could buy a yacht and cruise around the world like you do; I'm glad you're doing really well!"

Basically, it's the feeling of envy when you take out the resentment from it. Is there a word for it?

(I thought about "admire", but found it too strong and broad)

6 Answers 6


You can say he inspires you. Or, you aspire to succeed as well as he has.

inspire : to make (someone) want to do something : to give (someone) an idea about what to do or create

aspire : to want to have or achieve something (such as a particular career or level of success)

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    I think aspire works best here and could very well be the best answer. I would probably rephrase the sentence to say something like "Wow cruising around the world on a yacht sounds incredible, I aspire to live that kind of life some day. So glad to hear you are doing well!" Aug 13, 2015 at 17:20
  • @ChrisR: Thanks, I updated the usage wording based on your suggestion.
    – jxh
    Aug 14, 2015 at 1:10
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    Well this is the closest one so far...essentially your friend's achievements arouse within you a feeling of longing for the same kind of success, a.k.a. you aspire to do what he has done.
    – Yibo Yang
    Aug 14, 2015 at 5:22
  • @YiboYang - This comment gives me a related idea: I covet his success. Aug 15, 2015 at 17:52

A 'positive kind of "envy" without the sense of resentment' is, of course, envy.

While the OED (for envy, noun) comes out punching with definition 3a

The feeling of mortification and ill-will occasioned by the contemplation of superior advantages possessed by another

it gives Definition 4 a header stating Without notion of malevolence, and 4b as

b. A longing for the advantages enjoyed by another person

and an example:

1891 Your success excites my envy.

Note, this is a "positive kind of envy". Or at least "neutral".

As for envy (verb): after dispensing the negative definition the OED says

Also in less unfavourable sense: To wish oneself on a level with (another) in happiness or in the possession of something desirable; to wish oneself possessed of (something which another has).

Neither definition has been updated since the 19th century, so the OED is a bit behind the times. But the noun and verb can be used without a trace of 'negativity' (eg, malevolence). This doesn't mean envy is no longer among the cardinal sins: what matters is whether that envy includes the desire of stripping the envied object away from the person so that you can have it instead. (Similarly, pride is the number one cardinal sin, but that is only in the technical, biblical sense (man exalting himself to the place of deity)), it doesn't include things such as pride in one's achievements.

Both 'A longing for the advantages enjoyed by another person' and 'To wish oneself on a level with (another) in happiness' are hardly malevolent.


The concept is familiar, but when it comes to finding one word to express the concept in English, I don't think there is one. Some traditions express the concept in English with the phrase 'unselfish joy', or 'taking pleasure from another's good fortune', and the Pali/Sanscrit word 'mudita' covers that territory. See, for explanations, Mudita: The Buddha's Teaching on Unselfish Joy.

Perhaps, if you want to express your feelings to your friend, the straightforward "your good fortune pleases me" or something similar would serve.

The German 'schadenfreude', used to express the opposite concept ('taking pleasure from another's misfortune') is common enough in English to convey its meaning to many educated speakers without definition or explanation.


You could express that feeling by saying:

You lucky dog!

Thanks for fraternizing with us common folk!

I'm green with envy! No, man, I'm really happy for you.

I want what you've got!


In my language we have a term "white envy". I'm not sure if that sounds good or not in English and if people would understand. Maybe "glad envy" would be better.

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    – Community Bot
    Aug 28, 2023 at 22:17

Grudging admiration-- He won my grudging admiration.

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    If I say that I grudgingly admire someone I mean that I don't want to admire them but they're so impressive that I have to. This answer actually seems to emphasize the resentment, no?
    – coldnumber
    Aug 14, 2015 at 5:00
  • Coldnumber--Sounds to me like it's a draw.
    – user3847
    Aug 15, 2015 at 3:07
  • What do you mean?
    – coldnumber
    Aug 15, 2015 at 3:07

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