Is there a word for the selfish kind of (possibly humourous) delight felt at someone else's failure?


No matter how I tried, I couldn't complete the seemingly simple task. So feeling like an idiot I gave up and asked the expert. But to my ______, he couldn't do it either!


I don't feel like schadenfreude really fits - it seems to be more about a sadistic sort of pleasure in someone else's bad fortune. Whereas I'm looking for a sort of combination of humour, a touch of triumph and maybe even relief - and a little bit of, as Walt said, "it's not just that I'm an idiot" (if applicable).

marked as duplicate by curiousdannii, Hot Licks, JJJ, Edwin Ashworth single-word-requests Jun 18 at 19:18

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    Copious information here on 'schadenfreude' and 'epicaricacy' – Mitch Jun 17 at 13:05
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    This question (schadenfreude) seems to get resurrected every 3 months or so...however, it doesn't seem to work in the sample sentence. Better would be amusement, or something similar. – Cascabel Jun 17 at 13:58
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    Is the question about "haha, someone else failed" or "oh good, it's not just that I'm an idiot"? – Tin Man Jun 17 at 17:36
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    @Cascabel maybe it should be in the FAQ? – Mitch Jun 17 at 20:53
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    @Mitch I count 167 hits for schadendreude going back to 2010. Of course those include multiple answers to the same question (malicious glee over someone else’s bad fortune etc) In fact, probably the best post to support a FAQ dates back to 2011 (you actually commented on it!) mentions schadenfreude, gloat, Epicaricacy, sadistic pleasure, sadistic glee, lulz , etc – Cascabel Jun 17 at 22:08

There is an English word for this - epicaricacy. However, it is not a widely known or used word. I would say that more English speakers would be familiar with the German borrow-word schadenfreude, but even that may be limited to well-read persons.

A person who derives enjoyment from the suffering of others is a sadist, and while this carries a very strong and serious meaning, it is possible to use it in a lighthearted, softer way, for example:

He derived a certain sadistic pleasure from the misfortune of others.

Although sadism involves the inflicting of misfortune on others, the term "a certain sadistic pleasure" is used in a more vicarious way such as this quote from the NY Times:

...some of the people are so unpleasant that there's a certain sadistic pleasure in witnessing the awful things that happen to them.

However, I think the best word to fit into your sentence is "amusement":

No matter how I tried, I couldn't complete the seemingly simple task. So feeling like an idiot I gave up and asked the expert. But to my amusement, he couldn't do it either!

You do not really need the word to carry the meaning of epicaricacy because your sentence makes it quite clear what you are deriving amusement from. Your statement is more a definition of this kind of pleasure.

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    Note that sadism entails inflicting pain/humiliation to the target, it's not just a matter of seeing it. If you're not the one causing the pain/humiliation to someone, but it does amuse you, then schadenfreude/epicaricacy is more applicable. – Flater Jun 17 at 11:29
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    @Flater Noted, but you 'll see the expression I used "a certain sadistic pleasure" applied in vicarious ways too. I'll add a reference in. – Astralbee Jun 17 at 11:36
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    @rexkogitans Your last sentence is very interesting: "It would require the other person to have boasted about being able to do better but then fail. " Lexico has it only as: "Pleasure derived by someone from another person's misfortune." Is the connotation a little different in your geography? – Cascabel Jun 17 at 22:32
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    > even that may be limited to well-read persons. Or people who like musicals - "it's... schaaaadenfreude! Making me feel glad that I'm not you!" (Way to get that stuck in my head - it'll be in there for days now, probably. Really is a great song, though, and a bunch of great examples.) – neminem Jun 17 at 23:10
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    Why not just use "delight" in place of "amusement"? I think it actually works better since it captures the glee in schadenfreude. "Amusement" seems somehow passive, or at least not very strong. – Alex Reinking Jun 17 at 23:59

I'm thinking about the word gloat:

To feel or express great pleasure or satisfaction because of your own success or good luck, or someone else's failure or bad luck.

  • A disaster for the media, but worth a gloat from everyone else

  • I know I shouldn't gloat, but it really serves him right.

  • His enemies were quick to gloat at his humiliation.

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    While it works in general, it doesn't really fit the sample sentence that was given in the question. – KillingTime Jun 17 at 20:07
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    Is "gloatiness" a word? ;) – colmde Jun 18 at 10:39

But to my perverse satisfaction he couldn't do it either!

"marked by a disposition to oppose and contradict"

Source: Vocabulary.com


"He gets perverse satisfaction from embarrassing people."

Source: Longman Dictionary

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    I wouldn't call it perverse. "Secret satisfaction" might be better. – nigel222 Jun 18 at 9:56
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    I've actually heard "Perverse satisfaction" used in this context and you can google it to find examples. "secret satisfaction" isn't used in the same way. – Benjamin Jun 18 at 15:27

Stick with delight if you just want to fill the blank.

No matter how I tried, I couldn't complete the seemingly simple task. So feeling like an idiot I gave up and asked the expert. But to my delight he couldn't do it either!

If you want to make it explicit that you did not share this delight with anybody in order to save embarassing the expert, that's "secret delight".

As others point out this is close to the loan-word "Schadenfreude". However, it does not fit exactly in this context, and may also be missing an essential element, that the expert's failure is a misfortune for him. This instance may be more a matter of self-justification. He has proved to you that you were not the idiot that you were accusing yourself of being, out of insecurity or unfamiliarity with the work. You are, at least in this instance, every bit as capable as he is, and your self-confidence is bolstered.

  • hidden delight? hidden relief? hidden pleasure? hidden satisfaction? hidden pride? :) – rogerdpack Jun 18 at 14:04
  • @rogerdpack yes, that's also valid. Or, "barely concealed", getting very close to Schadenfreude.... – nigel222 Jun 18 at 14:08

Relish, gratification, GLEE

Chagrin (Merriam Webster), could be used to emphasize the vexatious nature of a feeling, as in the example's opposite, "...to my chagrin, he was able to do it easily".

A list of antonyms of chagrin on power thesaurus includes relish:

relish [noun]...
3 2 enjoyment of or delight in something that satisfies one's tastes, inclinations, or desires (MW)

So you could say:

But to my relish, he couldn't do it either!

Gratification (C.E.D.) also combines meanings of pleasure and personal satisfaction. With slight rewording for emphasis you could also say:

Much to my gratification, he couldn't do it either.

Another word which may be closer to what you are looking for could be:

1. [mass noun] Great delight, especially from one's own good fortune or another's misfortune. ( via Lexico)

As a native speaker I would say that glee can also denote joy or joyful anticipation of something that has a component of self interest or triumph for the person being gleeful. E.G. "The merchant approached the rich customer who had entered the shop, rubbing his hands with glee".

The ambiguity of how much of glee, if any, is arising from self interest is often left open for a reader or listener to imagine - and could be meant to be deliberately wry.


No matter how I tried, I couldn't complete the seemingly simple task. So feeling like an idiot I gave up and asked the expert. But to my glee, he couldn't do it either!



n. the act or process of dwelling on something with malevolent smugness or exultation

adj. dwelling on something with malevolent smugness or exultation; smug

-- Collins English Dictionary

When it comes to "gloat" vs "gloating", note that "gloat" could be from self-satisfaction, while "gloating" loses that connotation.

Also, "gloating" fits your example much better:

No matter how I tried, I couldn't complete the seemingly simple task. So feeling like an idiot I gave up and asked the expert. But to my gloating, he couldn't do it either!

Futhermore, "gloating" is not as obscure as "epicaricacy" or "schadenfreude", see Google Ngram (also notice that "epicaricacy" does not even show up).

Addendum: Amusement


  1. The state of being amused, entertained, or pleased.
  2. Something that amuses, entertains, or pleases.

-- American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language

I believe the context of the example allows to use "asmusement":

No matter how I tried, I couldn't complete the seemingly simple task. So feeling like an idiot I gave up and asked the expert. But to my amusement, he couldn't do it either!

Notice that amusement does not imply misfortune.


If the person is genuinely happy or mirthful that the other person they asked for help can't solve the problem either, I think the word amusement is fine. If it's really more of an "Oh good, it's not just me" then you might consider just using "relief."

e.g. But to my relief, he couldn't do it either.


If you want to retain the construction "But to my ______, he couldn't do it either!" there's (in ascending order of malice) 'delight', 'secret delight', 'wicked delight', 'evil delight'.

I think 'perverse delight' means something rather different.

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