It's the old cliche of a mad scientist or super-villain; talking to themselves as they prepare their latest scheme they say something like,

They all laughed at me...but I'LL SHOW THEM! I'LL SHOW THEM ALL!!

Cue thunder and lightning. As seen in TV Tropes

But I can't figure out what emotion exactly is the Mad Scientist showing here? Desire for vindication? Desire for vengeance? Is there a better way to say this other than "Desire for XXXXX"?

  • It could be either vindication or vengeance (or both). – Hot Licks Aug 3 '17 at 1:47
  • maybe it's the ecstasy of a revenge whose realisation is imminent – peerless Aug 3 '17 at 6:25
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    He wants to have "the last laugh" – samgak Aug 3 '17 at 10:37
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    It is a "Trumpism." ;-) – MaxW Aug 3 '17 at 16:44
  • unhinged ambition ? – Lamar Latrell Aug 4 '17 at 16:50

12 Answers 12


You could say they are feeling vindictive or are characterized by vindictiveness.


a : disposed to seek revenge : vengeful

b : intended for or involving revenge

An example of the word can be found in this column by Charles Krauthammer:

Trump relishes such a cat-and-mouse game and, by playing it so openly, reveals a deeply repellent vindictiveness in the service of a pathological need to display dominance.

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  • My first thought was "bitterness", but I think yours is better – iammax Aug 3 '17 at 18:38
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    Is "vindictive" related to "vindication"? Now that I think about it, they seemingly address slightly different things. Seeking revenge is not the same as seeking vindication, the former is "tit for tat" whereas the latter is trying to undo the "tat". – Flater Aug 4 '17 at 13:09
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    @Flater I agree, it seems that "vindicate" has drifted more to mean OED's "To clear from censure, criticism, suspicion, or doubt, by means of demonstration." Its meaning related to revenge is marked obsolete. On the other hand, "vindictive" still seems to mean wanting revenge. An interesting semantic drift apart for the words. And it leaves a flavor of subtlety that I like for this particular question. – RaceYouAnytime Aug 4 '17 at 13:56
  • "I'll show them" indicates a desire for vindication, not necessarily vindictive. – AmI Aug 4 '17 at 22:02

Hubris. "Exaggerated pride." Merriam-Webster.

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  • But a mad / crazed hubris... – Jim Aug 3 '17 at 3:53
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    I'm not sure that one can feel hubris. Hubris is involves thinking too highly of oneself, but I don't think anyone thinks they think too highly of themselves. IOW, there's an external value judgement inherent in the word, and it can't really apply to an internal emotional state. – Michael Seifert Aug 3 '17 at 13:03
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    @Wolfgang: Just because I manage to actually do it in the end, doesn't mean that my initial arrogance about my ability to do so wasn't a case of hubris. – Flater Aug 4 '17 at 13:11
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    @MichaelSeifert: Exactly! A valuation (by others) is needed to make that judgement. And they could be wrong. For example if they have only been shown a side of you where it seems obvious you would not be able to do it and none of the examples showing you actually are quite close. – mathreadler Aug 4 '17 at 14:36
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    @MichaelSeifert I'm feeling somewhat hubric, guess I'll do the right thing and express my hubris openly. Nothing worse than a closeted hubric locking away feelings of hubricitude, that's what I always say. – uhoh Aug 4 '17 at 16:00

I think that vengefulness could do.

The mad scientists is showing vengefulness.

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  • I don't think it is about revenge as much as it is about correctly proving them wrong. "I'll show them!" Revealing the reality to them in a way which they can not deny. – uhoh Aug 4 '17 at 15:55
  • @uhoh sorry, but I disagree. What you describe could be the attitude of a sane scientist. The mad scientist is not seeking the victory of truth over those who didn't believe his theories, he does want revenge for being laughed at. That's what most movies show, at least. – Lorenzo Donati -- Codidact.com Aug 4 '17 at 16:07
  • Ya I see your point. They come in different flavors. It's very possible we watch different movies, or have known different scientists. For the one's I've seen (mostly) in movies, it's been about literally showing them and enjoying watching them suffer when they realize how wrong they were, rather than directly seeking revenge independent of that. But it's a mixed bag ;) – uhoh Aug 4 '17 at 16:11
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    @uhoh Yep, definitely! Who can define what is really madness, anyway?!? :-) – Lorenzo Donati -- Codidact.com Aug 4 '17 at 16:20

I would say there's defiance in there as well.

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    Right, because implicit in that statement is something like "They said I couldn't, but ..." – Nick Jones Aug 3 '17 at 13:45
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    In that same vein I would mention Indignant -> "feeling or showing anger or annoyance at what is perceived as unfair treatment." – jtzero Aug 3 '17 at 15:14

I'd go with "mania". From Google:

  • mental illness marked by periods of great excitement, euphoria, delusions, and overactivity.
  • an excessive enthusiasm or desire; an obsession.

The mad scientist is showing mania.

"They all laughed at me...but I'LL SHOW THEM! I'LL SHOW THEM ALL!!" he shouted maniacally.

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    megalomania might be a bit better – patrick Aug 3 '17 at 16:06
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    But mania is not an emotion in itself as was requested but an illness triggering positive emotions that can lead to excitement, delusions et.c. – mathreadler Aug 4 '17 at 14:40
  • I agree with @patrick; this is about the thoughts going through the scientists head, not a possible medical condition that might encourage or heighten those thoughts. – uhoh Aug 4 '17 at 15:53

I'd say they're showing anticipation. Vindictive would be when they already exacted revenge. For now, they're just looking forward to that moment.

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    You have this exactly backwards. The definition of vindictive is "having or showing a strong or unreasoning desire for revenge". Vindictiveness necessarily comes before the revenge is exacted. – Nuclear Wang Aug 3 '17 at 13:55
  • correct. For some reason I was thinking about vindicated. – Victor Jalencas Aug 4 '17 at 8:47
  • This is the correct answer. The scientists is reveling in gleeful anticipation. Each mad scientists may be anticipating something a little different, it could be as simple as the expression on their faces when they realize they are wrong, or much greater expressions of thankfulness or regret for expressing doubts, or even the ruined academic careers of the doubters purely as a result of their own incorrect criticism. – uhoh Aug 4 '17 at 15:58

At the surface level, mostly petulance, frustration and a need for vindication, recognition, and/or acknowledgement ("you were right and great and we were wrong"), and then revenge on them for not giving him that.

Below that, usually fear (of not being right, not being wonderful or better than them all, of being insignificant or on the "wrong side of history" and forgotten, of having to die with dreams unfulfilled, and be forgotten like 99.999999% of people are within a few decades), maybe desperation (if he cant see how else he can get what he so desperately wants except by ultimately falling back on this all-or-nothing stand?) and in the psychological sense, hostility (meaning, probably knows its not going to really get him what he wants but knowing that doesn't help him to actually get on with things that might get him what he wants).

Possibly narcissism and delusions of grandeur somewhere in the mix as well ("I'm cleverer, I'll make it work, nothing they say will happen, I'll outwit them, and they'll have to admit they were beaten")

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Does it have to be an emotion? I'd say the "Mad" Scientist you reference is probably feeling anger, hate, jealousy, or shame, but what they are doing with this statement is showing a desire to either seek vindication that their position is not "mad" after all, or seek revenge on those who would perceive them or their plans in such derogatory terms.

In fairness, the fact that they almost never succeed, mostly as a result of their own failings, does indicate they might have some psychological issues...

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    If that guy succeeds, then we no longer say he was a mad scientist. Instead we say he was a misunderstood genius. – GEdgar Aug 3 '17 at 13:14

Confidence, mostly.

They're sure of success of their latest venture aimed at eradicating their enemies.

And oh, I resemble the "mad scientist" misnomer. They're not mad, and most of them are not scientists but engineers :)

Some of the sanest people in movie history have been branded with the title "mad scientist".

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  • Yes, confidence, but more a desire for recognition (vindication). Excess need for approval/attention is unhealthy. – AmI Aug 4 '17 at 22:09


: eagerness and ardent interest in pursuit of something : ꜰᴇʀᴠᴏʀ • her zeal to succeed strained her relationships

From the examples:

But there also seems scant prospect of that, given the zeal with which Mr Kim is pursuing his missile programme.
- The Economist, "The wrong kind of fireworks North Korea’s long-range-missile test will alarm Washington," 4 July 2017

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You could say that the scientist is showing vainglory.



  1. excessive elation or pride over one's own achievements, abilities, etc.; boastful vanity.

  2. empty pomp or show.


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Perhaps dogged single-mindedness, it would depend upon the context of the situation. For example, a scientist that is determined to prove he is scientifically correct may be blind to the morality or other issues created by what he is attempting and does not accept the reasons why he has been castigated by his peers.

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