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Could you, please, explain the difference between the words 'anger' and 'wrath'?

Merriam & Webster says

anger
transitive verb
to make angry: he was angered by the decision
intransitive verb
to become angry

wrath
1. strong vengeful anger or indignation
2. retributory punishment for an offense or a crime : divine chastisement

It seems to me that the latter has rather positive aspect than negative.

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    Hello, 151. What do dictionaries say? Dec 14, 2015 at 10:00
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    It would not be my choice in conversation. But Steinbeck, Tolkien, and the Bible translators use it well. Dec 14, 2015 at 10:17
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    Wrath has a big connotation of someone with superior strength actively channelling their anger into something destructive. Mainly used in such places as the old testament to tell about consequences of angering the deity. Same for the word Ire
    – mplungjan
    Dec 14, 2015 at 10:55
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    If you look up wrath in Merriam-Webster and scroll down you'll find a brief discussion of wrath, anger, fury, indignation, etc..
    – Jacinto
    Dec 14, 2015 at 10:57
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    The "anger" reference added to the question is not relevant. What's relevant is the noun "anger" not the verb "anger".
    – MetaEd
    Dec 14, 2015 at 22:15

4 Answers 4

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The American Heritage Dictionary provides a good definition of wrath that aligns well with some of the comments above:

  1. Forceful, often vindictive anger.

Example:

He feared the wrath of his employer.

Wrath can also mean:

  1. Punishment or vengeance as a manifestation of anger.

Example:

He decided to risk the wrath of the authorities and go ahead with the plan.

In a religious context, wrath can also have a more specific meaning of divine retribution for wrongdoing or sin.

Example:

You broke the divine law by murdering your brother and must suffer the wrath of the Almighty.

Some sources note that wrath can imply righteous anger (similar to the above):

righteous indignation and condemnation especially of a deity or sovereign

(Webster's Unabridged)

It can also be used humorously in certain contexts:

wrath: extreme anger (chiefly used for humorous or rhetorical effect)

(Oxford American Dictionary)

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  • @user151486 By the way, wrath can indeed have a more positive connotation when it means righteous indignation, especially on the part of a deity such as a holy God. That's the implication of wrath in the Bible and the Qur'an, for example.
    – A.P.
    Dec 14, 2015 at 11:37
  • And they don't usually say 'righteous anger', do they?
    – user151486
    Dec 14, 2015 at 11:41
  • On the contrary, "righteous anger" is quite a frequent collocation. But you can use a single word like "wrath" instead, in appropriate contexts.
    – A.P.
    Dec 14, 2015 at 11:53
  • @user151486 No problem!
    – A.P.
    Dec 14, 2015 at 12:07
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The old word wrath is a literary variant for extreme anger. The normal word in spoken language is anger or, if stronger, fury. oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/definition/english/wrath?q=wrath

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Anger (according to Websters) is "a strong feeling of displeasure and usually of antagonism".

Wrath is "strong vengeful anger or indignation" or "retributory punishment for an offence or crime: divine chastisement".

So, wrath has connotations of power and control whereas anger doesn't.

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The interesting difference is, wrath involves action. Usually action with an energy of violence, vengeance or punishment. Anger is often expected, understandable, even if frightening, anger is normally a result of an activating event. Once it escalates from feeling to action, anger becomes wrath.

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    AP's answer has said this (forceful anger / often vindictive ... may involve retribution / punishment). And AP has added the references, attributions and links expected on ELU. Nov 24, 2020 at 16:21

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