Is there a single word or phrase which can describe a person who is always slightly unsatisfied?

Update: To provide more context, This person is slightly unsatisfied with all things of life. Does too much work and still thinks he is doing less. Takes up a hobby and quickly lose interest wanting more.

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    What type of dissatisfaction is it? Trying-to-improve, querulous, upset, irritated? – Daniel Aug 29 '11 at 17:46
  • @drɱ65 δ, it is Trying-to-improve type. – Reddy Aug 30 '11 at 2:34
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    Restless would be a good all-around word for that, since it doesn't connote bad qualities; but there's also perfectionist, which is someone who can't relax until the thing he/she is working on is, well, perfect. – Daniel Aug 30 '11 at 12:06

Discontent or discontented could easily fit.

Here is a list of several words that are somewhat synonyms to this concept, and depending on context might prove useful:

blue, complaining, crabby, disgruntled, displeased, disquieted, exasperated, fed up, fretful, griping, perturbed, picky, restless, ungratified, upset, vexed

It depends partly on how active the discontentment is. Exasperated, griping, crabby, etc, have connotations of outward display of discontentment, while blue, discontent, disgruntled, etc can be relatively contained.

Restless presents an important nuance: it does not have to be negative. This is a valuable word to use when the discontentment is not a bad thing, especially when there is hope of resolving the cause of restlessness.

Perfectionist might be a helpful word (also maybe stickler or idealist); this describes someone who can't relax until the thing he/she is working on is perfect.

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    I typically use "restless" myself in that situation – Rikon Aug 29 '11 at 17:39

If we're looking for a noun, I'd go for malcontent, defined as a person who is dissatisfied and rebellious. I think this epithet particularly identifies a person who will always find something to complain about, no matter how much effort others put into improving things for him.

For adjectives, @drɱ65 provides a goodly slew of alternatives. Interestingly, I don't think "malcontented" would sit well with those. I think it's not often used to describe the type of person I would quite naturally call a "malcontent", which for me only seems to work as a noun.

  • Malcontent has a very negative connotation, so if you're going for a description that's neutral or positive, a word like discontent would be a better choice. – phenry Aug 29 '11 at 22:02
  • @phenry: I don't think you can call someone a discontent. For a noun with positive (or at least, less overtly negative) connotations, perfectionist seems to me to cover the same basic meaning. – FumbleFingers Aug 30 '11 at 2:26
  • @FumbleFingers, I need nouns with positive or neutral connotation. – Reddy Aug 30 '11 at 2:38
  • @FumbleFingers - au contraire; see Dr. Freud's book, Civilization and its Discontents. – phenry Aug 30 '11 at 3:31
  • @phenry: Point conceded. "Discontent" is occasionally used as a noun for a type of person. But if you check these written occurrences of a malcontent and a discontent, I think you'll agree that almost every instance of the first applies to an actual person (concrete noun?), whereas almost every instance of the second refers to an instance or type of discontentedness (abstract noun?!). – FumbleFingers Aug 30 '11 at 15:22

insatiable |in-sey-shuh-buhl|
Not satiable; incapable of being satisfied or appeased: insatiable hunger for knowledge.


  • I'm sorry, I have no idea how to format definitions. I tried using block quotes and new lines, but the new lines were ignored =(. – Jason McCarrell Aug 31 '11 at 14:38
  • Haha! Apparently you need 2 spaces after every line to create a new line after it. – Jason McCarrell Aug 31 '11 at 14:48
  • Welcome to EL&U, Jason. I just saw your comment, so I thought I'd mention that there's a little (?) icon to the top right of the text box when you're posting questions and answers, and this will allow you to get to the formatting help and advanced help for Markdown syntax. (It's pretty subtle; I often forget where it is even though I know it's there somewhere, so don't feel bad for missing it!) – aedia λ Aug 31 '11 at 19:35
  • Thanks, I knew about that, but didn't think to check it when I couldn't format new lines properly. Sometimes my brain does that. Thanks for the reminder. – Jason McCarrell Sep 1 '11 at 12:49
  • Insatiable has strong sexual connotation, see here for an example. Even outside of a sexual context, it's often disparaging, the outsized appetite being considered moral failing. – Malvolio Sep 7 '11 at 1:41

I would supply the context for a better answer. 'Curmudgeon' might work depending on what you really mean, as might 'fussbudget'. The former is someone whose expectations the world never meets, and who as a result has adopted a demeanor of grumpy forbearance, while the second is someone who takes joy in finding fault with everything, no matter how slight. A 'malcontent' can be someone who is very angry (at, say, a government), whereas a fussbudget is more often someone ceaselessly harping on trifles, and curmudgeons are often portrayed as secretly optimistic, despite their endless disappointments.

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