Home      Discussion      Topics      Dictionary      Almanac
Signup       Login
Schadenfreude

Schadenfreude

Discussion
Ask a question about 'Schadenfreude'
Start a new discussion about 'Schadenfreude'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Encyclopedia
Schadenfreude (ˈʃaːdənˌfʁɔʏdə) is pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others. This German word is used as a loanword
Loanword
A loanword is a word borrowed from a donor language and incorporated into a recipient language. By contrast, a calque or loan translation is a related concept where the meaning or idiom is borrowed rather than the lexical item itself. The word loanword is itself a calque of the German Lehnwort,...

 in English and some other languages, and has been calque
Calque
In linguistics, a calque or loan translation is a word or phrase borrowed from another language by literal, word-for-word or root-for-root translation.-Calque:...

d in Danish
Danish language
Danish is a North Germanic language spoken by around six million people, principally in the country of Denmark. It is also spoken by 50,000 Germans of Danish ethnicity in the northern parts of Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, where it holds the status of minority language...

 and Norwegian
Norwegian language
Norwegian is a North Germanic language spoken primarily in Norway, where it is the official language. Together with Swedish and Danish, Norwegian forms a continuum of more or less mutually intelligible local and regional variants .These Scandinavian languages together with the Faroese language...

 as skadefryd and Swedish
Swedish language
Swedish is a North Germanic language, spoken by approximately 10 million people, predominantly in Sweden and parts of Finland, especially along its coast and on the Åland islands. It is largely mutually intelligible with Norwegian and Danish...

 as skadeglädje.

Spelling and etymology


In German, Schadenfreude is capitalized, as are all nouns. When used as a loanword
Loanword
A loanword is a word borrowed from a donor language and incorporated into a recipient language. By contrast, a calque or loan translation is a related concept where the meaning or idiom is borrowed rather than the lexical item itself. The word loanword is itself a calque of the German Lehnwort,...

 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
Middle High German
Middle High German , abbreviated MHG , is the term used for the period in the history of the German language between 1050 and 1350. It is preceded by Old High German and followed by Early New High German...

 schade, from the Old High German
Old High German
The term Old High German refers to the earliest stage of the German language and it conventionally covers the period from around 500 to 1050. Coherent written texts do not appear until the second half of the 8th century, and some treat the period before 750 as 'prehistoric' and date the start of...

 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
Archaism
In language, an archaism is the use of a form of speech or writing that is no longer current. This can either be done deliberately or as part of a specific jargon or formula...

) English word "frith". A distinction exists between "secret schadenfreude" (a private feeling) and "open schadenfreude" (Hohn, a German
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

 word roughly translated as "scorn") which is outright public derision.

English equivalents


Little-used English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

 words synonymous with schadenfreude have been derived from the Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 word epichairekakia (ἐπιχαιρεκακία). Nathan Bailey
Nathan Bailey
Nathan Bailey was an English philologist and lexicographer.-Life:Bailey was a Seventh Day Baptist, admitted 1691 to a congregation in Whitechapel, London. He was probably excluded from the congregation by 1718. Later he had a school at Stepney...

's 18th-century Universal Etymological English Dictionary, for example, contains an entry for epicharikaky that gives its etymology
Etymology
Etymology is the study of the history of words, their origins, and how their form and meaning have changed over time.For languages with a long written history, etymologists make use of texts in these languages and texts about the languages to gather knowledge about how words were used during...

 as a compound of ἐπί epi (upon), χαρά chara (joy), and κακόν kakon (evil). A popular modern collection of rare words, however, gives its spelling as "epicaricacy".

An English expression with a similar meaning is 'Roman holiday
Roman festivals
In ancient Roman religion, holidays were celebrated to worship and celebrate a certain god or divine event, and consisted of religious observances and festival traditions, usually with a large feast, and often featuring games . The most important festivals were the Saturnalia, the Consualia, the...

', a metaphor taken from the poem "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage
Childe Harold's Pilgrimage
Childe Harold's Pilgrimage is a lengthy narrative poem in four parts written by Lord Byron. It was published between 1812 and 1818 and is dedicated to "Ianthe". The poem describes the travels and reflections of a world-weary young man who, disillusioned with a life of pleasure and revelry, looks...

" by George Gordon, Lord Byron, where a gladiator
Gladiator
A gladiator was an armed combatant who entertained audiences in the Roman Republic and Roman Empire in violent confrontations with other gladiators, wild animals, and condemned criminals. Some gladiators were volunteers who risked their legal and social standing and their lives by appearing in the...

 in Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

 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.

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". The medieval church taught morose delectation as a sin. French
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 writer Pierre Klossowski
Pierre Klossowski
Pierre Klossowski was a French writer, translator and artist. He was the eldest son of the artists Erich Klossowski and Baladine Klossowska, and his younger brother was the painter Balthus.-Life:...

 maintained that the appeal of sadism is morose delectation.

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).

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
Troll (Internet)
In Internet slang, a troll is someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum, chat room, or blog, with the primary intent of provoking readers into an emotional response...

 behavior.

Related words


The Buddhist
Buddhism
Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha . The Buddha lived and taught in the northeastern Indian subcontinent some time between the 6th and 4th...

 concept of mudita
Mudita
Mudita in Buddhism is joy. It is especially sympathetic or vicarious joy, the pleasure that comes from delighting in other people's well-being rather than begrudging it...

, "sympathetic joy" or "happiness in another's good fortune", is cited as an example of the opposite of schadenfreude. Alternatively, envy
Envy
Envy is best defined as a resentful emotion that "occurs when a person lacks another's superior quality, achievement, or possession and either desires it or wishes that the other lacked it."...

, 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
Sympathy
Sympathy is a social affinity in which one person stands with another person, closely understanding his or her feelings. Also known as empathic concern, it is the feeling of compassion or concern for another, the wish to see them better off or happier. Although empathy and sympathy are often used...

, pity
Pity
Pity originally means feeling for others, particularly feelings of sadness or sorrow, and was once used in a comparable sense to the more modern words "sympathy" and "empathy"...

 or compassion
Compassion
Compassion is a virtue — one in which the emotional capacities of empathy and sympathy are regarded as a part of love itself, and a cornerstone of greater social interconnection and humanism — foundational to the highest principles in philosophy, society, and personhood.There is an aspect of...

.

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

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", 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
The Economist
The Economist is an English-language weekly news and international affairs publication owned by The Economist Newspaper Ltd. and edited in offices in the City of Westminster, London, England. Continuous publication began under founder James Wilson in September 1843...

to refer to the fall of Eliot Spitzer
Eliot Spitzer prostitution scandal
The Eliot Spitzer prostitution scandal began on March 10, 2008, when The New York Times reported that Democratic New York Governor Eliot Spitzer had patronized a prostitution service called Emperors Club VIP...

.

Literary usage and philosophical analysis


The Book of Proverbs
Book of Proverbs
The Book of Proverbs , commonly referred to simply as Proverbs, is a book of the Hebrew Bible.The original Hebrew title of the book of Proverbs is "Míshlê Shlomoh" . When translated into Greek and Latin, the title took on different forms. In the Greek Septuagint the title became "paroimai paroimiae"...

 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
Nicomachean Ethics
The Nicomachean Ethics is the name normally given to Aristotle's best known work on ethics. The English version of the title derives from Greek Ἠθικὰ Νικομάχεια, transliterated Ethika Nikomacheia, which is sometimes also given in the genitive form as Ἠθικῶν Νικομαχείων, Ethikōn Nikomacheiōn...

, Aristotle
Aristotle
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology...

 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
Archenemy
An archenemy, archfoe, archvillain or archnemesis is the principal enemy of a character in a work of fiction, often described as the hero's worst enemy .- Etymology :The word archenemy or arch-enemy originated...

(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.

During the 17th century, Robert Burton
Robert Burton (scholar)
Robert Burton was an English scholar at Oxford University, best known for the classic The Anatomy of Melancholy. He was also the incumbent of St Thomas the Martyr, Oxford, and of Segrave in Leicestershire.-Life:...

 wrote in his work The Anatomy of Melancholy
The Anatomy of Melancholy
The Anatomy of Melancholy The Anatomy of Melancholy The Anatomy of Melancholy (Full title: The Anatomy of Melancholy, What it is: With all the Kinds, Causes, Symptomes, Prognostickes, and Several Cures of it. In Three Maine Partitions with their several Sections, Members, and Subsections...

, "Out of these two [the concupiscible and irascible powers] arise those mixed affections and passions of anger
Anger
Anger is an automatic response to ill treatment. It is the way a person indicates he or she will not tolerate certain types of behaviour. It is a feedback mechanism in which an unpleasant stimulus is met with an unpleasant response....

, 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
Pride
Pride is an inwardly directed emotion that carries two common meanings. With a negative connotation, pride refers to an inflated sense of one's personal status or accomplishments, often used synonymously with hubris...

, self-love
Self-love
Self-love is the strong sense of respect for and confidence in oneself. It is different from narcissism in that as one practices acceptance and detachment, the awareness of the individual shifts and the individual starts to see him or herself as an extension of all there is...

, emulation, envy, shame
Shame
Shame is, variously, an affect, emotion, cognition, state, or condition. The roots of the word shame are thought to derive from an older word meaning to cover; as such, covering oneself, literally or figuratively, is a natural expression of shame....

, &c., of which elsewhere."

The philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer
Arthur Schopenhauer
Arthur Schopenhauer was a German philosopher known for his pessimism and philosophical clarity. At age 25, he published his doctoral dissertation, On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason, which examined the four separate manifestations of reason in the phenomenal...

 mentioned Schadenfreude as the most evil sin of human feeling, saying famously "To feel envy is human, to savor schadenfreude is devilish."

Susan Sontag
Susan Sontag
Susan Sontag was an American author, literary theorist, feminist and political activist whose works include On Photography and Against Interpretation.-Life:...

's book "Regarding the Pain of Others
Regarding the Pain of Others
Regarding the Pain of Others was Susan Sontag's last published book before her death in 2004. It is regarded by many to be a follow-up or addendum to On Photography, despite the fact that the two books have radically different opinions about photography. This long essay is especially interested in...

", 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”.

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
Social comparison theory
Social comparison theory is a theory initially proposed by social psychologist Leon Festinger in 1954. It explains how individuals evaluate their own opinions and desires by comparing themselves to others.- Basic framework :...

, 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
Self-esteem
Self-esteem is a term in psychology to reflect a person's overall evaluation or appraisal of his or her own worth. Self-esteem encompasses beliefs and emotions such as triumph, despair, pride and shame: some would distinguish how 'the self-concept is what we think about the self; self-esteem, the...

 are more likely to feel schadenfreude than are people who have high self-esteem.

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
Functional magnetic resonance imaging
Functional magnetic resonance imaging or functional MRI is a type of specialized MRI scan used to measure the hemodynamic response related to neural activity in the brain or spinal cord of humans or other animals. It is one of the most recently developed forms of neuroimaging...

 observe someone experiencing physical pain
Pain
Pain is an unpleasant sensation often caused by intense or damaging stimuli such as stubbing a toe, burning a finger, putting iodine on a cut, and bumping the "funny bone."...

. 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.

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
Anterior cingulate cortex
The anterior cingulate cortex is the frontal part of the cingulate cortex, that resembles a "collar" form around the corpus callosum, the fibrous bundle that relays neural signals between the right and left cerebral hemispheres of the brain...

; the brain's reward centers, such as the ventral striatum
Ventral striatum
The ventral striatum is generally considered that part of the striatum that is connectionally associated with limbic structures, such as the amygdala, hippocampus, midline thalamus, and certain regions of the prefrontal cortex...

, 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.

A 2009 study indicates that the hormone oxytocin may be involved in the feeling of schadenfreude. 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

  • Bullying
  • Cyber-bullying
    Cyber-bullying
    Cyber-bullying is the use of the Internet and related technologies to harm other people, in a deliberate, repeated, and hostile manner. As it has become more common in society, particularly among young people, legislation and awareness campaigns have arisen to combat it.-Definition:The term...

  • Mudita
    Mudita
    Mudita in Buddhism is joy. It is especially sympathetic or vicarious joy, the pleasure that comes from delighting in other people's well-being rather than begrudging it...

  • Sadism
    Sadistic personality disorder
    Sadistic personality disorder is a diagnosis which appeared only in an appendix of the revised third edition of the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders . The current version of the DSM does not include it, so it is no longer considered a valid...

  • Victim blaming
    Victim blaming
    Victim blaming occurs when the victim of a crime, an accident, or any type of abusive maltreatment are held entirely or partially responsible for the transgressions committed against them. Blaming the victim has traditionally emerged especially in racist and sexist forms...