For example: you laugh at someone getting hurt on America's Funniest Home videos, and then are ashamed that you laughed at their pain. Or you want to laugh at an off-color joke, but are ashamed that you found it funny in the first place. Or someone tells you a story about a personal misfortune, and you find it funny, but you are trying not to laugh and are disappointed with yourself for finding it funny.

Sample: I was [word] when my boyfriend caught his privates in the zipper of his jeans.


  • 1
    Not the single-word answer you're looking for, but a common way of expressing this emotion in AmE is, "I'm going to hell for laughing at this." Oct 7, 2015 at 1:54
  • "Embarrassed amusement" is a phrase I might use. (And, BTW, that can be incredibly painful.)
    – Hot Licks
    Nov 6, 2015 at 3:35

5 Answers 5


Schadenfreude fits most of your examples. The fact that English had to borrow a German term to cover this would seem to indicate that there is no native word that covers your actual answer.

  • Or it might indicate that Germans are more likely to derive pleasure from someone else's pain...
    – RobJarvis
    Sep 1, 2021 at 14:18

Sounds a bit like chagrinned. American Heritage defines chagrin as

A keen feeling of mental unease, as of annoyance or embarrassment, caused by failure, disappointment, or a disconcerting event: To her chagrin, the party ended just as she arrived.

While it is not limited to embarrassment associated with amusement, it might suit.

There is also the concept of guilty pleasure

Something, such as a movie, television program, or piece of music, that one enjoys despite feeling that it is not generally held in high regard

Oxford Dictionary Online

The idea is I like it but I shouldn't is a good bit broader, but it aligns with highbrow types giggling at lowbrow culture.

  • 1
    I was thinking abashed, a synonym of chagrinned. I think the connotations are slightly better.
    – stevesliva
    Oct 7, 2015 at 4:36
  • @stevesliva A good one. Add it as an answer. It gets my vote.
    – bib
    Oct 7, 2015 at 16:24

I was surreptitiously laughing when my boyfriend caught his privates in the zipper of his jeans.

When someone behaves in a surreptitious way, they're being secretive. They're doing something that they don't want to be seen doing (i.e. in a stealthy way).

  • Secretive and stealthy, yes, but it does not have the component of shame that OP is specifically asking for. Also is not a single word, which is requested by OP's tag.
    – Holly
    Oct 6, 2015 at 23:25
  • @HollyK - Good remark, even if a hidden smile suggests the feeling of shame. To be more explicit, shamefully may fit.
    – Graffito
    Oct 6, 2015 at 23:31

This is not a single word as you requested, OP, but I'm not certain that there is a single word in English that expresses the sentiment you are looking for.

The closest I can come is guiltily amused.

You are amused, but feel guilty for being so.


It's not the name of an emotion, per se, but you could sum up your feelings using a facial expression can expresses part humor part embarrassment:

I was half-smiling when my boyfriend caught his privates in the zipper of his jeans.

half-smile (n.)

a smile that is uncertain or short-lived Collins

When Yusuf then says, "My father has bloomed?" their misunderstanding becomes clear. What do Yusuf's comment and sarcastic chuckle and Ayla's subsequent embarrassed half-smile mean? A. Kotaman et al.; Neo-Islamic Culture's Influence on Recent Turkish Media

Zack was taller than May by a head; she looked up at him, delighted. There was an embarrassed half smile on his face, but he didn't look displeased. Holly LeCraw; The Half Brother

He laughs then, a false laugh, an embarrassing laugh, embarrassing to all of us. No one says anything. I kind of half-smile to show I know it is a joke, but a joke I obviously don't condone Cate Sweeney; Selfish Jean

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