- Pleasure derived by someone from another person’s misfortune.
“I felt a twinge of schadenfreude when I heard that my former colleague who liked to cause trouble for others had been fired.”
“Sarah couldn’t help but feel a bit of schadenfreude when she found out that the man who stole her car had been arrested.”
“Part of my happiness in winning the prize is schadenfreude that my neighbor didn’t win the garden club award for the fifth time.”
German, late 19th century
Why this word?
German has a bevy of words to describe emotions in more descriptive ways than English allows. Some of these feelings are so universal that instead of attempting to cobble together a description in English, we’ve adopted the German words. For example, the German loanword “schadenfreude” is a direct combination of the German words for “harm or misfortune” and “joy.” It describes the happiness one feels at the misfortune of others. Perhaps it’s not always appropriate to feel a spark of glee when someone gets what’s coming to them, but that’s “schadenfreude.”
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