There's a sort of catharsis in listening to sad music, or reading sad poetry, and I'm looking for a word that describes how engaging in sad activities can actually be pleasurable.

I don't mean someone that revels in their own unhappiness or refuses to engage in activities that provide happiness, but rather when you want to watch a sad movie and have a good cry, even if you are generally happy.

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    I think possibly the best word for it is the one you actually used in the question: catharsis.
    – etmuse
    Commented Sep 12, 2017 at 10:41
  • A word of wisdom from the Bible(!): Ecclesiastes 7, verses two and four: It is better to go to a house of mourning Than to go to a house of feasting, Because that is the end of every man, And the living takes it to heart. The mind of the wise is in the house of mourning, While the mind of fools is in the house of pleasure." Just a thought . . .. Commented Sep 12, 2017 at 12:32
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    I think this is an ill posed question. You seem to be describing two different types of people. 1. A person who finds pleasure in sad things. 2. A person who gets a cathartic feeling from sad music/movies etc. I'd say that there are a variety of words for (1) depending on the degree / type / frequency of pleasure derived. As for (2) I think that describes almost every person in the world. I'd guess that most people can appreciate drama and sad music and be emotionally moved by them. Commented Sep 12, 2017 at 18:34
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    Are you asking for a word that describes the person or the feeling? Commented Sep 12, 2017 at 23:20
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    Please see the info on word requests. Describe exactly in what context you want to use the word or phrase--generally we want a sample sentence. Specify the criteria you'll use for accepting answers. Detail the research you've already done. List words or phrases you've already considered but rejected, and explain why. Provide information about the connotation, register, and part of speech you are looking for.
    – MetaEd
    Commented Sep 25, 2017 at 14:48

9 Answers 9


The word that came to my mind was sentimental:

Having or arousing feelings of tenderness, sadness, or nostalgia, typically in an exaggerated and self-indulgent way.
‘a sentimental ballad’
‘I'm a sentimental old fool’
Oxford Living Dictionaries


The classic term might be melancholy, as it is used in this exchange between Amiens, who has been singing a sad song, and Jaques, who has been avidly listening, in As You Like It:

Jaques. More, more; I pr'ythee, more.

Amiens. It will make you melancholy, Jaques.

Jaques. I thank it ; I do love it better than laughing.


Amiens. My voice is rugged : I know I cannot please you.

Jaques. I do not desire you to please me; I desire you to sing.—I can suck melancholy out of a song, as a weasel can suck eggs. Come, warble, warble.

As Jaques says elsewhere in the same scene, his is "a melancholy of mine own, compounded of many simples, extracted from many objects; and, indeed, the sundry contemplation of my travels, in which my after rumination wraps me is a most humorous [that is, strongly felt] sadness." That is a pretty good description of the experience of luxuriating in the deep pathos of a heartfelt sadness.

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    Melancholy is a feeling of sadness, not the enjoyment of it. So you'd have to describe the person in the question as longing for melancholy for example. In fact the cited passages in this answer suggest melancholy is undesirable, but Jacques asserts that he would welcome it.
    – talrnu
    Commented Sep 12, 2017 at 17:12
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    Even if the quoted passages in this answer suggests that melancholy is undesirable, John Milton's Il Penseroso suggests otherwise. poetryfoundation.org/poems/44732/il-penseroso
    – Yoshi Bro
    Commented Sep 18, 2017 at 22:17

If we are describing the sensation of enjoying something sad, that could be bittersweet:

n. something that is bittersweet; especially : pleasure accompanied by suffering or regret

adj. being at once bitter and sweet; especially : pleasant but including or marked by elements of suffering or regret ⋅ a bittersweet balladbittersweet memories
from m-w.com

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    So far this is the only word I can find (on this site or anywhere) that comes close to describing what OP wants. I can't believe there isnt a proper word for this though. Commented Sep 12, 2017 at 19:26
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    @kingfrito_5005, have to agree with you there... what OP describes is ubiquitous enough to deserve a name of its own, but there doesn't seem to be one. Commented Sep 13, 2017 at 9:10




maudlin: Affectionate or sentimental in an effusive, tearful, or foolish manner, especially because of drunkenness. [from 17th c.] quotations ▼ Extravagantly or excessively sentimental; mawkish, self-pitying. [from 17th c.] quotations ▼ (obsolete) Tearful, lachrymose. [17th-19th c.]

Maudlin has connotations beyond the questioner's "liking a good cry" (for example, it hints at drunkenness), but otherwise it's a good match. It implies sad emotionality for the sake of catharsis.


I don't think there is a single noun that refers to someone like that, but you can describe them as someone who has a "tragic sensibility".

sensibility: the ability to appreciate and respond to complex emotional or aesthetic influences; sensitivity. (from ODO)

tragedy: although the word tragedy is often used loosely to describe any sort of disaster or misfortune, it more precisely refers to a work of art that probes with high seriousness questions concerning the role of man in the universe (https://www.britannica.com/art/tragedy-literature)

Here are some articles that discuss the concept of "tragic sensibility": https://www.newcriterion.com/issues/2017/5/the-tragic-sensibility http://theaquilareport.com/tragic-worship-3/


A movie which is sad with an unhappy ending would likely appeal to a misery guts.

Although often used with the sense of killjoy, a misery guts is always complaining or in a bad mood, and seems actually to be happiest when things are not going well.


You can use the word masochist here.

Masochist : A person who derives satisfaction or pleasure from their own pain or humiliation.

Another reference :

Masochism is an eponym — a word named for a person. Leopold von Sacher-Masoch was an Austrian writer in the nineteenth century who described the gratification he got from his own pain and humiliation. For example,

If you call someone a masochist, you either mean that they take pleasure in pain, or — perhaps more commonly — that they just seem to.

These days, you're most likely to hear the word used jokingly by someone who doesn't understand another's motivations for doing something painful or difficult:

You're still building that stone wall? What are you, some kind of masochist?


I can't believe that you are still watching that movie! What kind of a masochistic person are you ?!

I hope this answered your question. :)

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    Masochist can't be used here at all. Did you read your own reference?
    – Xatenev
    Commented Sep 12, 2017 at 11:14
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    My reference mentions this as one of the definitions : a person who is gratified by pain, degradation, etc., that is self-imposed or imposed by others. Could you please elaborate why this word shouldn't be used here ? Commented Sep 12, 2017 at 11:23
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    Masochist can be used for people that find pleasure when they harm theirself. It doesn't apply to somebody that finds pleasure in generally sad things. OP gave the example of watching a sad movie - that has nothing to do with anybody causing harm to you.
    – Xatenev
    Commented Sep 12, 2017 at 11:26
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    @Xatenev - I disagree. If a person derives pleasure from subjecting themselves to emotional pain, how could that not be described as masochistic in nature?
    – user229189
    Commented Sep 12, 2017 at 13:19
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    I think this is the right direction, but I would probably use the adjectival form, masochistic, rather than the label. I'm sure I've seen descriptions of things like listening to sad songs or watching weepies in terms of a certain masochistic pleasure or similar.
    – 1006a
    Commented Sep 13, 2017 at 4:05

Schadenfreude Pleasure derived by someone from another person's misfortune. [Oxford English Dictionary]

Origin: German


It is sad and painful for many of us to be reminded of how little we know or how bad our skills are or how things work. A person who can overcome that pain and sadness to hunt for the joy of learning the nature of whatever induces the sadness is a learner.

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    I cannot find any definition of the word "Learner" that is in any way relevant for a "person who finds pleasure in sad things"
    – dkwarr87
    Commented Sep 12, 2017 at 14:13

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