When trying to understand the difference between irritated and annoyed I get this definition:

Annoy means: To disturb or irritate, especially by continued or repeated acts; to bother with unpleasant deeds. Are they kidding? Annoy means irritate? What is that?

Then how to get the difference? Please help to understand.

  • Whether you like it or not, they are synonyms. Guess what the definition of "irritate" will say! But if you check this link maybe the difference will be clear to you. – fev Jan 21 at 16:19
  • No, of course they are not kidding. English has many pairs of words with very similar meanings. You might be annoyed with someone because they have deliberately done something that inconvenienced you; you might be irritated because they keep coughing, even though you know they can't help it. – Kate Bunting Jan 21 at 16:25
  • 2
    They're not synonyms. Irritate refers to a physical effect produced by something outside whatever gets irritated. Annoy, on the other hand, is non-physical (your eye can get irritated, but not annoyed, for instance) and refers directly and only to emotions. Irritation is always metaphoric when it refers to emotions; the image is of a wounded, steaming, brain. – John Lawler Jan 21 at 16:30
  • @JohnLawler: WordHippo says they are synonyms. I did not say they were perfect synonyms. – fev Jan 21 at 16:39
  • It's hard to help with hypothetical problems. Give us a few examples where you think each one fits. – Yosef Baskin Jan 21 at 16:49

The words are sometimes synonymous. Let's look at other words that are associated with annoy and irritate in dictionaries.

I have taken the key words from Cambridge, Merriam Webster and Collins. Rather than bore you with a list of tedious definitions, this is what I find in my Venn diagram:

The synonymous area is central and orange. Irritate in the pink area is additionally associated with soreness (physical, but could be mental by analogy). Annoy is additionally associated with the words in the yellow area on the right.

I suggest that a focus on the central area produces reasonable claims of synonymy but that there are also differences of meaning shown by the pink and yellow areas. These differences may be brought out in various contexts.

enter image description here

  • Well done. A good answer well demonstrated. – Greybeard Jan 21 at 18:51
  • @Greybeard Kind of you. Thank you. I sometimes think set theory could be used more in the examination of meanings but I am too often easily diverted by pleasures of the language itself. – Anton Jan 21 at 21:51

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