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Schadenfreude (IPA: [ˈʃaːdənˌfʁɔʏ̯də] Audio (German)  ) is a German word meaning 'pleasure taken from someone else's misfortune'. It has been borrowed by the English language[1] and is sometimes also used as a loanword by other languages.

It derives from Schaden (damage, harm) and Freude (joy); Schaden derives from the Middle High German schade, from the Old High German scado, and freude comes from the Middle High German vreude, from the Old High German frewida, from frō, (happy). In German, the word always carries a negative connotation. 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.

Usually, it is stated that Schadenfreude has no direct English equivalent. For example, Harper Collins German-English Dictionary translates schadenfreude as "malicious glee or gloating." However, an apparent English equivalent is epicaricacy, derived from the Greek word ἐπιχαιρεκακία, epichaerecacia. This word does not appear in most modern dictionaries, but does appear in Nathaniel Bailey's Universal Etymological English Dictionary (1727) under a slightly different spelling (epicharikaky), which gives its etymology as a compound of epi (upon), chara (joy), and kakon (evil). A more common English equivalent than 'epicaricacy' might be the expression 'Roman holiday', which means pleasure derived from watching someone else's suffering, and is derived from the delight of Roman citizens' at the gladiatorial spectacles in the Colosseum.

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".[2] The medieval church taught morose delectation is a sin.[3][4] French writer Pierre Klossowski (1905-2001) maintained that the appeal of sadism is morose delectation.[5][6]

In English, the word sometimes is capitalized, because of the German spelling convention of capitalizing all common nouns in addition to proper nouns; however, as a loanword in English, it is typically left uncapitalized, following the rules of English orthography.

The Buddhist concept of mudita, "sympathetic joy" or "happiness in another's good fortune," is cited as an example of the opposite of schadenfreude.[7][8]

Expressions and the term in other languages

  • Neid zu fühlen ist menschlich, Schadenfreude zu genießen teuflisch: "To feel envy is human, to savour schadenfreude is devilish." (Arthur Schopenhauer)
  • Schadenfreude ist die schönste Freude.: "Schadenfreude is the best form of joy." Often used ironically to criticize somebody's display of schadenfreude.
  • Lachen heißt: schadenfroh sein, aber mit gutem Gewissen: "Humour is just Schadenfreude with a clear conscience." (Nietzsche)
  • Dutch: Geen schoner vermaak dan leedvermaak: "No entertainment more beautiful than enjoying someone else's suffering." (Proverb, often used ironically).
  • The French proverb: Le malheur des uns fait le bonheur des autres: "One person's misfortune is another's happiness". However, the equivalence here is inexact, as the proverb really means that only that one person would benefit from another's misfortune, not actually find pleasure in misfortune for its own sake. A better expression would be "Se réjouir du malheur d'autrui" ("to gloat").

Similar terms in other languages:

  • Albanian: inat (inat or inad, spite, ill will, resentment)
  • Arabic: shamaatah شماتة (shamtan, taking pleasure in the misfortune of others)
  • Bulgarian: злорадство (зло, evil or harm, радост, joy)
  • Chinese: Template:Zh-st (幸 enjoy[ing]; 災 [other's] calamity; 樂 be happy for/laugh at; 禍 [other's] misfortune/suffering)
  • Czech: škodolibost (škoda, damage, harm, or loss, libost, pleasure)
  • Danish and Norwegian: skadefryd (skade, damage, injury or harm, fryd, glee)
  • Dutch: leedvermaak (leed, suffering or sorrow, and vermaak, entertainment)
  • Esperanto: malica ĝojo (malica, wicked, and ĝojo, joy)
  • Estonian: kahjurõõm (kahju, damage or harm and rõõm, joy)
  • Finnish: vahingonilo (vahinko, accident or damage, ilo, joy or happiness)
  • Greek: χαιρεκακία (χαρά, joy or delight and κακία, spite or ill will)
  • Hebrew: שמחה) : שמחה לאיד, joy, איד, misfortune, based on Proverbs 17:5) (simcha la'ed), also: " מתכבד בקלון חבירו " (see Mishneh Torah, the laws of Teshuvah chap. 4:4).
  • Hungarian: káröröm (kár, loss or damage, öröm, joy)
  • Lithuanian: piktdžiuga (piktas angry, džiaugsmas joy)
  • Macedonian: злорадост (зло, evil or harm, радост, joy)
  • Russian: злорадство (зло, evil or harm, радость, joy)
  • Scots Gaelic: aighear millteach (aighear, delight or joy, millteach, malicious or destructive)
  • Serbian and Croatian: злурадост/zluradost (zlo, evil, radost, joy)
  • Slovak: škodoradosť (škoda, damage, harm, or loss, radosť, joy)
  • Slovenian: škodoželjnost (škoda, damage, harm, or loss, želeti, to wish)
  • Swedish: skadeglädje (skada, damage, glädje, joy or happiness)

In Swedish and Norwegian, there is also the saying: skadeglädjen/fryd är den enda sanna glädjen/fryd ("schadenfreude is the only true joy"). A Finnish variant is: vahingonilo on aidointa iloa, sillä siihen ei sisälly tippaakaan kateutta ("schadenfreude is the most genuine kind of joy, since it doesn't include even a drop of envy"). A Slovak variant is: škodoradosť je najväčšia radosť ("schadenfreude is the greatest joy"), similar in meaning to the Hungarian variant: legszebb öröm a káröröm, and the Estonian: kahjurõõm on kõige suurem rõõm. In Hebrew the saying is: 'אין שמחה כשמחה לאיד' ("There is no joy like schadenfreude"). In Danish, the saying is: Egen lykke er at foretrække men andres ulykke er dog ikke at foragte, and translates to "(One's) own happiness is to be preferred, but the misfortune of others should not be scorned." In Dutch the saying is: Er is geen beter vermaak dan leedvermaak ("There's no better entertainment than schadenfreude"). The German version reads: Schadenfreude ist die schönste Freude. ("Schadenfreude is the greatest joy.")

In Thai, the phrase สมน้ำหน้า, som nam na, can be interpreted as: "You got what you deserved"; "Serves you right"; or "I'm laughing at your bad luck".

In Malay, the phrase padan muka literally means "fits your face" but the more appropriate English translation is: "You got what you deserved";

In Korean, the phrase 고소하다, go so ha da, literally translated means "to smell sesame oil", because in Korea the smell of sesame oil is regarded as very pleasant, this phrase also is used when one is pleased about a particular event. It is especially used when one is pleased about an event involving the misfortune of another.

In Chinese, the phrase xìngzāi lèhuò (Template:Zh-st) is an old idiom that directly translates to "enjoying (other's) calamity (and) laughing at (other's) misfortune".

In Japanese, the phrase 他人の不幸は蜜の味, tanin no fukou wa mitsu no aji, translates literally as "others' misfortunes are the taste of honey".

memoirs, Inside the Third Reich, Albert Speer described Adolf Hitler's sense of humor as almost entirely based upon schadenfreude. Some examples were mean-spirited jokes played on ministers such as Joachim von Ribbentrop, many initiated by Hitler or his friends.


  1. Oxford Dictionary of English, 2nd Edition (2005), p.1577.
  2. definition of morose delectation, Oxford English Dictionary
  3. 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.
  4. Chapter 6 Proposing the Story of the World, Richard John Neuhaus, Catholic Matters: Confusion, Controversy, and the Splendor of Truth, Basic Books, 2006.
  5. Heterodox Religion and Post-Atheism: Bataille / Klossowski/ Foucault, Jones Irwin, ISSN 1393-614X Minerva - An Internet Journal of Philosophy Vol. 10 2006.
  6. Klossowski, Pierre. 1991. Sade, My Neighbour, translated by Alphonso Lingis. Illinois. Northwestern University Press.
  7. The Upside of Shadenfreude, Joshua Zader, Mudita Journal, December 6, 2005.
  8. Are you Schadenfreude or Mudita?, Sirtumble, One of Six Billion..., February 6, 2005.

See also

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