Given the following sentence, is "indignantly" used correctly:

"I can't believe a filthy beggar like you would dare to even speak to us!" the lead girl in the trio indignantly shouted at him.

The definition of the word "indignant" states that it is "showing anger or annoyance at what is perceived as unfair treatment."

In this case, the person is definitely angry, but she is clearly looking down on the beggar. She also clearly thinks it's inappropriate that he's spoken to her, but it's not really "unfair" treatment. Is "indignant" properly used in this case?

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  • I believe this is a question for English.SE, as it's asking about word definitions. – F1Krazy Aug 22 at 5:26
  • Berate already means speak angrily to, so you probably don't need an adverb. Her words demonstrate how she feels towards him. – Kate Bunting Aug 22 at 15:16
  • This comes from the writing stack and follows what @KateBunting is saying. What if you separated the indignant reaction from the berating? The lead girl was indignant. "I can't believe..., " she berated him. – rebusB Aug 22 at 15:24
  • @rebusB Neither of those answer the question though. If "berated" was replaced with "shouted" would it be accurate? Does "indignant" require that the person it's applied to feel unfair treatment? – stix Aug 22 at 15:55
  • @stix - That is why I responded in the comments. Like I said, I came from the Writing stack (where this question migrated from) so I am not talking about the English Usage, I am talking about the writing form. The words technically mean what you want them to...Kate's and my comments are more about style. – rebusB Aug 22 at 16:00

But yes she CAN feel indignant. In fact it is probably the right word choice, if you are trying to convey an extreme sense of entitlement.

She was so outraged by the breach of social protocol of being addressed by a member of the lower classes that she was indignant.

That said.. you can tighten the dialogue up a bit.

  • Noted. The dialog was just an example. ;) – stix Aug 22 at 18:11
  • @stix: I like your word choice here quite a lot. It is a little bold and a little unconventional, but it describes the character most precisely. – dolphin_of_france Aug 22 at 18:17

The problem is in the 'Lexico powered by Oxford' definition you found.

The fuller definition in the Oxford English Dictionary gives the following:

Affected with indignation; provoked to wrath by something regarded as unworthy, unjust, or ungrateful; moved by an emotion of anger mingled with scorn or contempt; ‘inflamed at once with anger and disdain’ (Johnson). Said of persons, their feelings, etc.; also figurative of things.

Which appears to be exactly how you are using it.


By your own statement

...but it's not really "unfair" treatment.

then the word is not being used properly. She has no reason to feel indignant.

However, if the speaker is self-aggrandizing enough to feel that being addressed by anyone below her station is unfair to her than yes, that person may be indignant, and would berate (or shout at, or whisper to) the lowly one indignantly.

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