As a non native English speaker (I speak German), I'm frequently confused by the usage of the word "disappointed". When someone tells me they're "disappointed" that something didn't happen, the obvious meaning is they really wished / expected for that something to happen.

My question is, when I was the reason for that something not to happen, how often is there a connotation that hints at that person reproaching that I should have really made that something happen for them?

I'm interested in both the interpretation of the above:

  • By native English speakers
  • By non-native English speakers who might inadvertently convey that reproach from their usage of the translation of "disappointed" to their own native language. E.g. I believe that this connotation exists in the German word "enttäuscht".
  • 1
    The definition is: upset because something you hoped for has not happened or been as good, successful, etc. as you expected. What is unclear about it? oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/definition/american_english/…
    – user 66974
    Sep 20, 2018 at 7:12
  • 1
    @user070221: Yes, that's a clear definition, but I'm not asking for the definition but a potential connotation that would imply not only being upset, but also a reproach about whose guilt that is, and what should have been done instead. Clearly, if several native English speakers don't understand my concern, then my concern is unnecessary.
    – Lukas Eder
    Sep 20, 2018 at 7:15
  • 1
    I think the "reproach" connotation is part of "being upset".
    – user 66974
    Sep 20, 2018 at 7:17
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    @Kris: How is telling someone to look up a word in a good dictionary helpful? Look at all the linked, related questions about "connotation", e.g. this: english.stackexchange.com/questions/173816/…. I thought this site was exactly for this kind of question.
    – Lukas Eder
    Sep 20, 2018 at 7:45
  • 2
    If it was your fault that it didn't happen, they are disappointed in you. If it didn't happen because you were ill or had to deal with an emergency, they are disappointed at the way things turned out, and probably expect you to share that feeling. Sep 20, 2018 at 8:35

1 Answer 1


If it is something you should have done - and you didn't do it - and they tell you that they are disappointed that it didn't happen, then yes, the implication is that they are disappointed in you. "Disappointed" is not a benign word.

Of course, it's a slightly more polite way of putting it than "I am disappointed in you." There are various reasons why someone might choose to be polite here. For instance, they might allow for the possibility that you failing to complete your task was genuinely not your fault, in which case it's appropriate to apologize and explain what happened. Or they might simply not feel like having a confrontation that day. Either way, if that's the word they used to describe a situation you have caused, I'd take it seriously.

However, that goes for a situation in which they had a reasonable expectation that you would do something for them. If they had no reason to expect it, and were merely hoping for it, then there may be no implication of disappointed in you. But, unfortunately, "disappointed" is still not a benign term. The likely intent is still to communicate their displeasure to the person who caused it.

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