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Nuanced Words for "Happy" and "Sad"

Conveying the feeling you want to express.

MaxPixels CC0
Source: MaxPixels CC0

We're more likely to be understood when we use nuance in our language. Previous installments in this series offered nuanced words for “love” and “anger.” Here are some for "happy" and "sad."

They may be useful in speaking and/or writing.

When two words are adjacent, they're quite interchangeable. Use the one you feel more comfortable with.

Nuanced Words for "Happy"

They're listed in roughly ascending order, from pleased to ecstatic.

Pleased. Feeling quiet pleasure. I am pleased with my client’s progress.

Content: Pleased and with no desire for more. While my marriage has problems, I am content, and sure I want to stay together for life.

Glad. A notch happier than pleased, again about a specific. I’m glad to have had that advisor.

Tickled. Happy with a one-off of no more than moderate consequence. I’m tickled to have been selected to speak at the conference.

Gratified. Pleased or happy with an accomplishment, ascribing at least some of the success to an external force, usually other people. I’m gratified by the response to my article.

Delighted. Feeling great pleasure. I'm delighted to be working for a quality organization.

Exultant or Euphoric. Very happy because of a triumph. I'm euphoric in having won despite the outstanding competition.

Thrilled. Feeling happier than “delighted,” almost levitating with happiness. I’m thrilled at how my home-office remodel turned out.

Overjoyed or Ecstatic. A notch happier still. I am overjoyed to be marrying Robin.

Nuanced Words for "Sad"

Sometimes you can better convey your sadness with one of these nuanced variants on "sad."

Down or blue: Temporary mild or moderate sadness. For no apparent reason, I'm feeling down today.

Morose or depressed (as used in common parlance, not the clinical diagnosis:) Very sad, brooding, glum for an extended period. I've always been kind of a sad person but after I got my diagnosis, I've become morose.

Wistful: Pensive longing. I was wistful when reminiscing how happy we were just a few months ago.

Troubled: Distressed about a specific. I'm troubled by my slow progress.

Unhappy: Sad about a specific or broadly. I'm just an unhappy person.

Miserable: Wretchedly unhappy. I am absolutely miserable about having hit that bicyclist.

Agony: Intense suffering, usually transient. I am in agony at seeing my home ransacked.

Dispirited: Sad because of some occurrence, literally the loss of spirit. Having searched everywhere, I became dispirited realizing I'll never find those family photos.

Deflated: Saddened by reduced hope. My failing the oral exam leaves me deflated. Will I ever become a counselor, let alone a good one?

Despondent or dejected: Devoid of hope. I feel despondent because of my career-ending injury.

Bereft: Deprived of, especially because of a death, usually a longer-lasting but less intense feeling than agony. I am bereft at the loss of my child.

Doleful: Showing grief. His doleful expression wasn't surprising given that at age 52, he has just been replaced.

Melancholy: Soberly pensive. Seeing what's going on in this country has made me melancholy. It's hard to picture things improving.

Disconsolate: Unable to be cheered up. He tried everything: talking to his most upbeat friend, his therapist, even watching Woody Allen movies, but he remained disconsolate about his future.

The takeaway

Expressing your happiness or sadness with nuance helps us to get understood and, in turn, may make us, well, happy.

I read this aloud on YouTube.

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