You know how when you talk to someone about a bad time you're going through, and they feel the urge to one-up you to achieve some sort of imaginary victory point?


School is challenging because I have to catch a bus early in the morning.
Pfft, that's nothing, I used to have to WALK to school.

I did the dishes and the laundry this morning so I'm a little tired.
You're tired from that? That's nothing, I swept and mopped my entire house AND my parents' house, I'M tired.

Are there words/phrases that describe this behaviour? Either as verbs to describe the act itself, or as nouns to describe the competition.

I've seen "struggle Olympics" used before and that's pretty accurate but I'm pretty sure that's just internet slang.

  • 2
    Competitive suffering or competitive victimhood get some Google hits, but are you looking for something more interesting or picturesque? Or would you prefer a term from academic psychology? Maybe ask these guys.
    – Stuart F
    Aug 4, 2023 at 11:24
  • 1
    Isn't it one-upmanship? Personship? Aug 4, 2023 at 12:53
  • 2
    Didn’t you just say the verb: one-up? For the noun: one-upmanship. For the close: hyperbolic one-upmanship... Aug 5, 2023 at 2:42
  • This sort of discourse is comoon—responding to a story of difficulty with one of your own. Is it sympathetic or competitive?
    – Xanne
    Aug 5, 2023 at 4:53
  • @TinfoilHat one-up is good, but I was wondering if there's something more specific in the realm of complaining. As in, one-upping specifically by trying to claim that I have it harder than you do.
    – Ash Menon
    Aug 24, 2023 at 16:14

1 Answer 1


Lo and behold! Here it is, right in the OED:

one-downmanship n.
The art or practice of being or appearing to be at a disadvantage. Cf. one-down adv., one-upmanship n.
Source: Oxford English Dictionary — one-downmanship (login required)

Usage examples there start at 1961.

The tricky part is if you need a verb; while one-up can easily be found in common use,* one-down can’t.

It’s only a hop and skip away, though, from finding its way into the books. Go boldly.

*See, e.g., this from the OED: John Wintermeyer..one-upped the socialists by endorsing the Saskatchewan plan. (1963, Canada Month March 10/1)

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