Schadenfreude Listeni/ˈʃɑːdənfrɔɪdə/ (German: [ˈʃaːdənˌfʁɔʏdə]) is pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others.[1] This German word is used as a loanword in English and some other languages, and has been calqued in Danish and Norwegian as skadefryd and Swedish as skadeglädje.[citation needed]


Linguistic analysis

Spelling and etymology

Taming the donkey by Eduardo Zamacois y Zabala, 1868

In German, Schadenfreude is capitalized, as are all nouns. When used as a loanword in English, however, it is not capitalized, unless the origin of the word is meant to be emphasized. The corresponding German adjective is schadenfroh. The word derives from Schaden (adversity, harm) and Freude (joy). Schaden derives from the Middle High German schade, from the Old High German scado, and is a cognate with English "scathe". Freude comes from the Middle High German freude, from the Old High German frewida, and is a cognate with the (usually archaic) English word "frith". A distinction exists between "secret schadenfreude" (a private feeling) and "open schadenfreude" (Hohn, a German word roughly translated as "scorn") which is outright public derision.

English equivalents

Little-used English words synonymous with schadenfreude have been derived from the Greek word epichairekakia (ἐπιχαιρεκακία).[2][3] Nathan Bailey's 18th-century Universal Etymological English Dictionary, for example, contains an entry for epicharikaky that gives its etymology as a compound of ἐπί epi (upon), χαρά chara (joy), and κακόν kakon (evil).[4][5] A popular modern collection of rare words, however, gives its spelling as "epicaricacy".[6]

An English expression with a similar meaning is 'Roman holiday', a metaphor taken from the poem "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage" by George Gordon, Lord Byron, where a gladiator in Ancient Rome expects to be "butcher'd to make a Roman holiday" while the audience would take pleasure from watching his suffering. The term suggests debauchery and disorder in addition to sadistic enjoyment.[7]

Another phrase with a meaning similar to Schadenfreude is "morose delectation" ("delectatio morosa" in Latin), meaning "the habit of dwelling with enjoyment on evil thoughts".[8] The medieval church taught morose delectation as a sin.[9][10] French writer Pierre Klossowski maintained that the appeal of sadism is morose delectation.[11][12]

An English word of similar meaning is "gloating", where "gloat" is defined as "to observe or think about something with triumphant and often malicious satisfaction, gratification, or delight" (gloat over an enemy's misfortune).[13]

The internet slang term "lulz" (A variation of LOL) has acquired the connotation of fun or amusement at another person's expense, especially in regard to trolling behavior.

Related words

The Buddhist concept of mudita, "sympathetic joy" or "happiness in another's good fortune", is cited as an example of the opposite of schadenfreude.[14][15] Alternatively, envy, which is unhappiness in another's good fortune, could be considered the counterpart of schadenfreude. Completing the quartet is "unhappiness at another's misfortune", which may be termed sympathy, pity or compassion.[citation needed]

The transposed variant "Freudenschade" has been invented in English to mean sorrow at another person's success.[16][17]

Neologisms and variants

Neologisms and portmanteau words were coined from the word as early as 1993 when Lincoln Caplan, in his book "Skadden: Power, Money, and the Rise of a Legal Empire",[18] used the word "Skaddenfreude" to describe the delight that competitors of Skadden Arps took in its troubles of the early 1990s. Another is "Spitzenfreude", coined by The Economist to refer to the fall of Eliot Spitzer.[19]

Literary usage and philosophical analysis

The Book of Proverbs mentions an emotion similar to that now described by the word schadenfreude: "Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth: Lest the LORD see it, and it displease him, and he turn away his wrath from him." (Proverbs 24:17–18, King James Version).

In the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle used the term epikhairekakia (ἐπιχαιρεκακία in Greek) as part of a triad of terms, in which epikhairekakia stands as the opposite of phthonos (φθόνος), and nemesis (νέμεσις) occupies the mean. Nemesis is "a painful response to another's undeserved good fortune", while phthonos is "a painful response to any good fortune", deserved or not. The epikhairekakos (ἐπιχαιρέκακος) person actually takes pleasure in another's ill fortune.[20][21]

During the 17th century, Robert Burton wrote in his work The Anatomy of Melancholy, "Out of these two [the concupiscible and irascible powers] arise those mixed affections and passions of anger, which is a desire of revenge; hatred, which is inveterate anger; zeal, which is offended with him who hurts that he loves; and ἐπιχαιρεκακία, a compound affection of joy and hate, when we rejoice at other men's mischief, and are grieved at their prosperity; pride, self-love, emulation, envy, shame, &c., of which elsewhere."[22]

The philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer mentioned Schadenfreude as the most evil sin of human feeling, saying famously "To feel envy is human, to savor schadenfreude is devilish."[23]

Susan Sontag's book "Regarding the Pain of Others", published in 2003, is a study of the issue of how the pain/misfortune of some affects others, namely whether war photography and war paintings can be helpful as anti-war tools or if they only serve some sense of schadenfreude in some viewers.

Philosopher and sociologist Theodor Adorno defined schadenfreude as “largely unanticipated delight in the suffering of another which is cognized as trivial and/or appropriate”.[24]

Scientific studies

A New York Times article in 2002 cited a number of scientific studies of schadenfreude, which it defined as "delighting in others' misfortune." Many such studies are based on social comparison theory, the idea that when people around us have bad luck, we look better to ourselves. Other researchers have found that people with low self-esteem are more likely to feel schadenfreude than are people who have high self-esteem.[25]

A 2006 experiment suggests that men, but not women, enjoy seeing bad people suffer. The study was designed to measure empathy, by watching which brain centers are stimulated when subjects inside an fMRI observe someone experiencing physical pain. Researchers expected that the brain's empathy center would show more stimulation when those seen as good got an electric shock than they would if the shock was given to someone the subject had reason to consider bad. This was indeed the case, but for male subjects the brain's pleasure centers also lit up when someone else got a shock that the male thought was well-deserved.[26]

Brain-scanning studies show that schadenfreude is correlated with envy. Strong feelings of envy activated physical pain nodes in the brain's dorsal anterior cingulate cortex; the brain's reward centers, such as the ventral striatum, were activated by news that the people envied had suffered misfortune. The magnitude of the brain's schadenfreude response could even be predicted from the strength of the previous envy response.[27][28]

A 2009 study indicates that the hormone oxytocin may be involved in the feeling of schadenfreude.[29] In that study, it was reported that when participants in a game of chance were pitted against a player they considered arrogant, inhaling oxytocin through the nose enhanced their feelings of schadenfreude when their opponent lost as well as their feelings of envy when their opponent won.

See also


  1. ^ Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary.
  2. ^ Shipley, Joseph T. (1955). Dictionary of Early English. Philosophical Library. ISBN 978-0-8065-2926-4. 
  3. ^ Novobatzky, Peter; Shea , Ammon (1955). Depraved and Insulting English. Harvest Books. ISBN 978-0-15-601149-5. 
  4. ^ Bailey, Nathan (1737). Universal Etymological English Dictionary. London. 
  5. ^ Bailey, Nathan (1751). Dictionarium Britannicum. London. 
  6. ^ Byrne, Josefa H. (1984). Mrs. Byrne's Dictionary of Unusual, Obscure, and Preposterous Words. Pocket. ISBN 0671497820. 
  7. ^ "Roman holiday – Definition from the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary". 2007-04-25. Retrieved 2010-03-23. 
  8. ^ definition of morose delectation, Oxford English Dictionary
  9. ^ Prima Secundae Partis, Q. 74, The Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas, Second and Revised Edition, 1920; Literally translated by Fathers of the English Dominican Province, Online Edition Copyright © 2006 by Kevin Knight.
  10. ^ Chapter 6 Proposing the Story of the World, Richard John Neuhaus, Catholic Matters: Confusion, Controversy, and the Splendor of Truth, Basic Books, 2006.
  11. ^ Heterodox Religion and Post-Atheism: Bataille / Klossowski/ Foucault, Jones Irwin, ISSN 1393-614X Minerva – An Internet Journal of Philosophy Vol. 10 2006.
  12. ^ Klossowski, Pierre. 1991. Sade, My Neighbour, translated by Alphonso Lingis. Illinois. Northwestern University Press.
  13. ^ Dictionary definition of gloat'
  14. ^ The Upside of Shadenfreude, Joshua Zader, Mudita Journal, December 6, 2005.
  15. ^ Are you Schadenfreude or Mudita?, Sirtumble, One of Six Billion..., February 6, 2005.
  16. ^ "Yahoo Groups "worthless word for the day is ... freudenschade"". Retrieved 2010-03-23. 
  17. ^ Daily Stanford (2006) "Freudenschade"
  18. ^ Latest activity 19 hours ago. "Skadden: Power, Money, and the Rise of a Legal Empire (9780374524241): Lincoln Caplan: Books". ASIN 0374524246. 
  19. ^ "Premium content". 2008-03-13. Retrieved 2010-03-23. 
  20. ^ Pedrick, Victoria; Oberhelman, Steven M. (2006). The Soul of Tragedy: Essays on Athenian Drama. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-65306-8. 
  21. ^ Nicomachean Ethics, 2.7.1108b1-10
  22. ^ Robert Burton (1621). The Anatomy of Melancholy. pp. t. 1, sect. 1, memb. 2, subsect. 8. 
  23. ^ Schopenhauer, Arthur. "The Essays of Arthur Schopenhauer On Human Nature". On Human Nature. "But it is Schadenfreude, a mischievous delight in the misfortunes of others, which remains the worst trait in human nature. It is a feeling which is closely akin to cruelty, and differs from it, to say the truth, only as theory from practice." 
  24. ^ Cited in Portmann, John (2000). When bad things happen to other people. New York: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-92335-2. , p. 186.
  25. ^ St. John, Warren. "Sorrow So Sweet: A Guilty Pleasure in Another's Woe". New York Times, Aug. 24, 2002.
  26. ^ Singer T, Seymour B, O'Doherty JP, Stephan KE, Dolan RJ, Frith CD (January 2006). "Empathic neural responses are modulated by the perceived fairness of others". Nature 439 (7075): 466–9. doi:10.1038/nature04271. PMC 2636868. PMID 16421576.  Lay-summary
  27. ^ Takahashi, H.; Kato, M.; Matsuura, M.; Mobbs, D.; Suhara, T.; Okubo, Y. (2009-02-13). "Science (February 13, 2009) "When Your Gain Is My Pain and Your Pain Is My Gain: Neural Correlates of Envy and Schadenfreude" by Hidehiko Takahashi et al". Science ( 323 (5916): 937–9. doi:10.1126/science.1165604. PMID 19213918. Retrieved 2010-03-23. 
  28. ^ New York Times (February 17, 2009) "In Pain and Joy of Envy, the Brain May Play a Role" by Natalie Angier
  29. ^ Simone G. Shamay-Tsoorya, et al., "Intranasal Administration of Oxytocin Increases Envy and Schadenfreude (Gloating)," Biological Psychiatry, Volume 66 Issue 9, Pages 864–870 (1 November 2009)

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Schadenfreude — (IPA ˈʃaːdənˌfʁɔʏ̯də (?·i)) es una palabra del alemán que designa el sentimiento de alegría creado por el sufrimiento o la infelicidad del otro. El término se usa también como expresión culta en otros idiomas, como el inglés y el español. El… …   Wikipedia Español

  • Schadenfreude — empfinden: Freude über den Schaden, der anderen entsteht, (heimliche) Genugtuung am Pech, Mißerfolg anderer empfinden, einen Unglücklichen noch obendrein verspotten. In älterer Zeit wurde wegen dieser negativen Eigenschaft sogar der ⇨ Teufel mit… …   Das Wörterbuch der Idiome

  • Schadenfreude — est un terme allemand signifiant « joie provoquée par le malheur d autrui ». Cet emprunt lexical est rarement utilisé en français, moins rarement en anglais. L expression peut se traduire par mauvaise joie [1], et le sens se rapproche… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • schadenfreude — (n.) malicious joy in the misfortunes of others, 1922, German, lit. damage joy, from schaden damage, harm, injury (see SCATHE (Cf. scathe)) + freude, from O.H.G. frewida joy, from fro happy, lit. hopping for joy, from P.Gmc. *frawa (see FRO …   Etymology dictionary

  • Schadenfreude — Schadenfreude, Vergnügen, welches man über Anderer Schaden empfindet. Daher Schadenfroh, wer ein solches Vergnügen empfindet …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Schadenfreude — ► NOUN ▪ pleasure derived from another s misfortune. ORIGIN German, from Schaden harm + Freude joy …   English terms dictionary

  • schadenfreude — [shäd′ n froi΄də; ] Ger [, shäd′ nfroi΄də] n. [Ger < schaden, to harm + freude, joy] glee at another s misfortune …   English World dictionary

  • Schadenfreude — Als Schadenfreude (selten auch Schadensfreude) wird die Freude über das Missgeschick oder Unglück anderer [1] bezeichnet. Sie kann versteckt als heimliche Schadenfreude empfunden werden oder sich als offene Schadenfreude (Hohn, Spott, Ironie,… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Schadenfreude — die Schadenfreude (Aufbaustufe) Vergnügen am Unglück einer anderen Person Beispiel: Die Schadenfreude war ihm ins Gesicht geschrieben, als sein Freund bei der Prüfung durchfiel. Kollokation: Schadenfreude empfinden …   Extremes Deutsch

  • Schadenfreude — Scha̲·den·freu·de die; nur Sg; die Freude, die jemand daran hat, dass einem anderen etwas Unangenehmes passiert <Schadenfreude empfinden; Schadenfreude ist die schönste Freude> …   Langenscheidt Großwörterbuch Deutsch als Fremdsprache