I believe it is what the Germans call "Schadenfreude". English itself has no such equivalent word. (Although it has been adopted as a loanword.)

Does an idiom exist that describes it?

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    What do you mean, "English has no such equivalent word"? It does, and that word is schadenfreude. Merriam-Webster: "enjoyment obtained from the troubles of others", Wiktionary: "malicious enjoyment derived from observing someone else's misfortune", and in fact your very own Wikipedia link mentions right in the second sentence that schadenfreude is "used as a loanword in English and some other languages".
    – RegDwigнt
    Commented Sep 30, 2011 at 9:19
  • 2
    The link says it is a "loanword". i.e. It has been adopted, because there is no English translation (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loanword). You'll notice that my question asks for an idiom...
    – Urbycoz
    Commented Sep 30, 2011 at 10:26
  • 4
    Schadenfreude -is- an idiom (well, its parts are inscrutable). A loanword is still English. But we know what you mean, something that is not a loanword, like 'spite' or 'frustration' (no, those are not suggestions).
    – Mitch
    Commented Sep 30, 2011 at 13:12
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    @Urbycoz: no, you -should- include Schadenfreude in your question, as you want to make it explicit that it is an answer you don't want.
    – Mitch
    Commented Sep 30, 2011 at 15:18
  • 3
    Is anyone else tired of hearing about "loan words"? Every word of English is a loan word. (The only difference is wrt how long ago a foreign word was adopted.) Sheesh. The same is true of some other languages, but it is especially true of English. (Not to mention that it is a lousy term: Is such a word ever going to be given back to the other language? And even if it were, from the point of view of English it would be an act of borrowing, not loaning.)
    – Drew
    Commented Aug 3, 2014 at 3:24

5 Answers 5


I remember a Magic The Gathering card which had "Schadenfreude" in German and "Sadistic Glee" in English.

  • 7
    I'd never thought of Magic the Gathering cards as an authoritative source on English grammar and usage before! :-)
    – Jay
    Commented Dec 21, 2011 at 21:24
  • Haha, no, definitely not, but in this case they provided me with the best translation I know for "Schadenfreude" :-).
    – Raku
    Commented Dec 23, 2011 at 11:43

The Wikipedia page includes the English equivalents of Schadenfreude.

  • Epicaricacy
  • Roman holiday
  • Morose delectation
  • Gloating
  • lulz

Little-used English words synonymous with schadenfreude have been derived from the Greek word epichairekakia (ἐπιχαιρεκακία). Nathan Bailey's 18th-century Universal Etymological English Dictionary, for example, contains an entry for epicharikaky that gives its etymology as a compound of ἐπί epi (upon), χαρά chara (joy), and κακόν kakon (evil). A popular modern collection of rare words, however, gives its spelling as "epicaricacy".

An English expression with a similar meaning is 'Roman holiday', a metaphor taken from the poem "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage" by George Gordon, Lord Byron, where a gladiator in Ancient Rome expects to be "butcher'd to make a Roman holiday" while the audience would take pleasure from watching his suffering. The term suggests debauchery and disorder in addition to sadistic enjoyment.

Another phrase with a meaning similar to Schadenfreude is "morose delectation" ("delectatio morosa" in Latin), meaning "the habit of dwelling with enjoyment on evil thoughts". The medieval church taught morose delectation as a sin. French writer Pierre Klossowski maintained that the appeal of sadism is morose delectation.

An English word of similar meaning is "gloating", where "gloat" is defined as "to observe or think about something with triumphant and often malicious satisfaction, gratification, or delight" (gloat over an enemy's misfortune).

The internet slang term "lulz" (A variation of LOL) has acquired the connotation of fun or amusement at another person's expense, especially in regard to trolling behavior.

  • The problem here is that if you used any of these words (with the exception, perhaps, of "lulz," which doesn't correspond directly to schadenfreude), you'd have to explain that the word means... well, "schadenfreude." I can't see the point of finding an obscure, arcane synonym to use in place of a well known term. I like the article tho! :) Commented Sep 30, 2011 at 14:30
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    +1 - I think "gloat" is a verb that very accurately describes the noun "Schadenfreude."
    – oosterwal
    Commented Sep 30, 2011 at 16:58
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    "gloat" is a good general answers. Your other suggestions are pretty obscure, and I don't think most people would know what you meant. (And when I say "most people", I mean "me".)
    – Jay
    Commented Dec 21, 2011 at 21:25

Though "Sadistic" carries a potential sexual inference (that one would actually derive sexual pleasure from another's suffering), this word is used frequently without implying the sexual element of it. It derives from The Marquis de Sade who was a real go-getter.

Of someone who delights in the pain of others; Of behaviour which gives pleasure in the pain of others

  • The dictionary definition of "sadistic" does not mention anything sexual.
    – Urbycoz
    Commented Sep 30, 2011 at 14:00
  • 1
    THAT definition of sadistic didn't include anything sexual... If you'll click on the Sadistic link above you'll see the first definition of it is: "1.Deriving pleasure from inflicting pain, suffering, or humiliation on others." I picked a definition further down the list that didn't include sexual gratification to show that it didn't have to be sexual.
    – Rikon
    Commented Sep 30, 2011 at 14:12

Malicious enjoyment is a normal ego-produced feeling. When I was in school and I received a "B" in a test, I hated the "A"s but loved gloating at the "C"s. Politics and sports are full of schadenfreude. Often we gain from other's misfortunes and people who are run by their egos love to feel anything that will stroke the ego.

  • 2
    Welcome to ELU. Are you proposing malicious enjoyment as the answer to the question? If so, it's not bad; but that could be made clearer. SE is not a forum, it's a Q&A site.
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Nov 3, 2013 at 12:41

Currently, the newer idiom for deriving pleasure at others expense is lulz.

Often used to denote laughter at someone who is the victim of a prank, or a reason for performing an action. This variation is often used on the Encyclopedia dramatica wiki and 4chan image boards. According to a New York Times article about Internet trolling, "lulz means the joy of disrupting another's emotional equilibrium."

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    Could you add some references, source, meaning of the acronym? Commented Jul 30, 2014 at 6:06
  • 2
    As english.stackexchange.com/help/how-to-answer says: "Any answer that gets the asker going in the right direction is helpful, but do try to mention any limitations, assumptions or simplifications in your answer. Brevity is acceptable, but fuller explanations are better." Commented Jul 30, 2014 at 6:22

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