Imagine two people had some agreement, maybe involving money, and then one of them feels that the other person wronged him. The person feels an extreme anxiety because of this, and blinded by anger does something disproportionate and unreasonable, for example, kills the offending party.

Sounds like a common theme of many crimes. But does this sensation of rage caused by a real or imaginary injustice have a name?

There is the term irresistible impulse, feeling of injustice might cause an irresistible impulse to do something unreasonable. 

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    Not a single word, but - "righteous anger"? – birrellwalsh Mar 29 '16 at 1:19
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    Self-righteous? – NVZ Mar 29 '16 at 3:22
  • "Irresistible impulse" is a legal term that is defined by law and interpreted by a court. What constitutes an irresistible impulse might vary by jurisdiction. – zeugma Mar 29 '16 at 5:20
  • Are you asking for a technical legal term or a general verb or expression for an emotion? – zeugma Mar 29 '16 at 12:50


Merriam-Webster defines it as

: extreme anger

: a strong feeling of unhappiness because of something bad, hurtful, or morally wrong

: something that hurts people or is morally wrong

It can be seen as "anger" about what is "morally wrong/unjust."

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  • Absolutely. And Dictionary.com says "a powerful feeling of resentment or anger aroused by something perceived as an injury, insult, or injustice" – Doug Glancy Mar 29 '16 at 1:10

'Righteous indignation' is the term for that sensation of rage.


retribution, retributive justice; anger and contempt combined with a feeling that it is one's right to feel that way; anger without guilt

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  • Can you please substantiate your answer by citing the references? – Nagarajan Shanmuganathan Mar 29 '16 at 8:19
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    People who are righteously indignant are fiercely angry, sometimes arrogant, or even hypocritical. They are not so outraged that they commit terrible, irrational acts and then ask forgiveness. Usually in their minds they have no doubt as to the merits of their cause. – zeugma Mar 29 '16 at 12:48
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    @zeugma That's not really relevant to the question. Righteous Indignation refers to people being indignant (similar to angry, outraged, offended), for reasons they believe are fully justified, or 'righteous'. That's what the term means. Any further ramifications are specific to who's angry, why and what they do about it. – AJFaraday Mar 29 '16 at 13:51
  • @AjFaraday I disagree. The term "righteous indignation" is often used in connection with self-absorbed people who have not suffered injustice and the term itself does not imply that they have. – zeugma Mar 30 '16 at 1:53

I don't believe there's a word that packs in both the emotions you describe. For a good verb describing rage, I'd used "incensed".

"2: to arouse the extreme anger or indignation of"


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The words you're looking for are indignant [feeling or showing anger or annoyance at what is perceived as unfair or unjust treatment], indignation and compulsion [to define "irresistible impulse"].

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    I don't think so — indignant is much more mild, and especially in modern usage tends towards putting on a show. When one of my kids gets to go to a birthday party, the other one might cross her arms and pout, and maybe yell "no fair!" — that's what's called to mind by "indignant" — not murder. – mattdm Mar 29 '16 at 16:37
  • The definition you quote supports this — note annoyance, not rage. – mattdm Mar 29 '16 at 16:37
  • Indignation was given to define the initial cause, or source, of some such reaction. Is this not what OP was looking for? – ArnoldM Mar 29 '16 at 17:35

In legal terms, what you are describing could be a crime of passion, that is, an unpremeditated crime motivated by strong emotion.

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    A "crime of passion," which is a vague legal term, is an offense excused by extreme emotions usually caused by jealousy, not a sense of injustice. – zeugma Mar 29 '16 at 12:45
  • @zeugma, what if you caught someone in the act of abusing your child, and you beat them up or killed them. That would be a crime of passion, wouldn't it? – dangph Mar 30 '16 at 0:41
  • Crimes of passion are usually committed by jilted lovers and cuckolded spouses. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crime_of_passion – zeugma Mar 30 '16 at 1:38


um·brage ˈəmbrij/Submit noun 1. offense or annoyance. "she took umbrage at his remarks" synonyms: take offense, take exception, be aggrieved, be affronted, be annoyed, be angry, be indignant, be put out, be insulted, be hurt, be piqued, be resentful, be disgruntled, go into a huff, be miffed, have one's nose put out of joint, chafe


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    "To take umbrage" doesn't suggest that one has been unjustly treated, just badly treated. – zeugma Mar 29 '16 at 17:22

Another fairly common term used is that it was an action done "in the heat of the moment", which stresses that it was done under emotional duress that was short-lived and due to the situation at hand - but without needing to be entirely specific as to the exact emotion (anger, jealousy, rage, or just an escalated conflict where emotions got the better of people). here, however, it is specific to a momentary emotional reaction. If the person had time to think about things and plan something then it would not apply.

Come to think of it, the term I used in my explanation of "emotional duress" also describes both the heightened state of emotions and the accompanying stress that may interfere with normal judgement.

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"indignation" seems to fit the bill.

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  • Hmm, interesting answer! Can you enhance it by editing in a dictionary definition of the word? Please mention which dictionary you found it in, and link back to it if it's online. – Dan Bron Mar 29 '16 at 14:09

Outrage would also work.

arouse fierce anger, shock, or indignation in (someone). "he was outraged at this attempt to take his victory away from him"

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