I have a question about a word I rather hope exists in the English language. Perhaps one of you can help me.

So, the word "schadenfreude", borrowed from German, means to take pleasure in the sufferings of others. Here's what I want to know: is there a word to describe the feeling of pleasure one derives from forcing another person to do the right thing, in ADDITION to the pleasure one feels because that person is made so miserable in the process? "The right thing" could be to satisfy their responsibilities if they have failed to do so in the past, work hard if they've historically been exceptionally lazy, or something else along those lines. Basically, making a person who is somehow awful toe the line, snap to, shape up, clean up their act, whatever--they're made to do right, they hate every second of it, and the person who's forcing them to do better when they'd really rather just keep being a sucky excuse for a human is loving every minute of it. THAT feeling.

Interested to see if this gets any responses and looking forward to what they might be! Feel free to ask for better examples or more clarity if necessary.

  • Is there such a word in German, do you know?
    – JHCL
    Oct 14, 2015 at 14:50
  • 3
    As far as I can tell, there is no such word in German, or English, or any language I am remotely familiar with. And why would there be? That's not how language works.
    – RegDwigнt
    Oct 14, 2015 at 14:58
  • Would spite qualify? Example: "Maybe she became engaged to him in order to spite another man" thefreedictionary.com/spite Oct 14, 2015 at 15:01

4 Answers 4


We borrowed the German 'schadenfreude' because there was no simple and common English expression for it. It seems unlikely that there would be a common English expression for this even more fine-grained feeling.

Given that the person deriving the pleasure is the one inflicting the pain, sadism works better than schadenfreude, since schadenfreude usually denotes (in my idiolect, at least) pleasure derived from observing or hearing about others' independent misfortunes, not misfortunes inflicted by the subject.

Maybe the neologisms altruistic sadism or paternalistic sadism get at what you want.

  • Does that phrase actually exist or did you make it by using two different words? Oct 14, 2015 at 15:26
  • It's something I came up with for the occasion. It's nothing I've ever heard before. I'll edit to make that clear.
    – DyingIsFun
    Oct 14, 2015 at 15:27
  • Sounds great I must say! Oct 14, 2015 at 15:33
  • Interesting answer! Of course, now I've got another question: what if it's someone else who's inflicting the suffering? In other words, if I'm taking pleasure in the misery of another person, the person is miserable because they're being forced to behave in a morally, ethically, or socially correct fashion, but I'm not the one doing the forcing, what would you call that?
    – KTardiff
    Oct 14, 2015 at 16:17
  • 1
    @KTardiff, Is part of the reason you're deriving pleasure because (1) you yourself willingly behave morally, ethically, or socially correct, or (2) because you are free to behave immorally, unethically, or socially incorrect?
    – DyingIsFun
    Oct 14, 2015 at 16:34

While not a word or term for the feeling, those experiencing the sensation sound like the morality police

one of many names used to describe groups of people whose job (often self-appointed) is to enforce standards of moral behavior and religious adherence among the general public.


There is a similar concept specific to India known as the moral police

a blanket term used to describe vigilante groups which act to enforce a code of morality in India


A related, but much more generic term related to the feeling described is self-righteousness. Oxford Dictionaries Online defines self-righteous as

Having or characterized by a certainty, especially an unfounded one, that one is totally correct or morally superior: self-righteous indignation and complacency

Note that this sensation may exist without the person experiencing it taking any action to enforce those beliefs. It also does not suppose those feelings are justified, and in fact, is often used to suggest they are not.


I believe there are words or phrases describing the feelings of the person watching the wrongdoer correct the error of their ways...

  • smugness
  • gloating
  • satisfaction to see the person get their comeuppance
  • satisfaction to see the person get their just desserts
  • validation

There is, to the best of my knowledge, no such word that exists to describe such a moment. However, a common allotrope I have heard is well intentioned paternalism where paternalism, in particular:

the policy or practice on the part of people in authority of restricting the freedom and responsibilities of those subordinate to or otherwise dependent on them in their supposed interest.

Moreover, I would like to add some clarity to your definition of schadenfreude:

  • It is pleasure derived from the misfortune not suffering of others, where the distinction between these two lies mainly in the degree of harm
  • I think you should also make the distinction that this pleasure is usually taken in secret, and as such is termed malicious
  • Those are interesting distinctions, in your definition of schadenfreude.
    – JEL
    Oct 14, 2015 at 19:43
  • For your clarification of schadenfreude, I'm curious to know where those clarifications originate or are cited because I don't know of any "restriction" to cause for schadenfreude (misfortune versus suffering) nor that it's usually taken in secret. You've included a link to OED and there's no further clarification on that site. Oct 14, 2015 at 20:50
  • @KristinaLopez You are right. Only the obvious social rules apply, which might indicate that it is a bad idea to shout:"Hey Bob, I'm happy that you lost your job, you filthy bastard." Schadenfreude is not just being happy about any harm though. First of all, you can't be the source of the harm. Then, Schadenfreude is limited to a level of (maybe wrongly) perceived righteousness or karma. You can't just be happy about some misfortune or suffering, you must believe that it was deserved. This leads to extreme suffering usually, not always, to be excluded from Schadenfreude. Oct 14, 2015 at 22:34

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.