Vocabulary in English

60 Negative Emotion Adjectives to Describe Negative Feelings

60 Negative Emotion Adjectives to Describe Negative Feelings

In this lesson, you’re going to learn 60 negative feelings in English. Also check out 8 Better Words for “Happy” Plus 33 More Positive Emotion Adjectives & Idioms.

Talking about our feelings, especially negative feelings, isn’t easy — even in our first language.

So today I’m going to show you different words to describe negative emotions in English.

You’re going to learn:

  • Other words for sad
  • Other words for angry
  • Other words for anxious
  • Other words for jealous
  • Other words for regretful
  • Other words for bored
  • Other words for tired

Free test - Gymglish with Clark and Miller

Negative Feelings #1

Other Words for “Anxious”

Negative feelings: other words for "anxious"

VOICE IN YOUR HEAD: What if it breaks?
YOU: But this is Canada! Nothing breaks here!
VOICE IN YOUR HEAD: Nothing’s perfect. Remember that story in the news last year?
YOU: It’ll be fine.
VOICE IN YOUR HEAD: But will it?
YOU: … erm …

Nervous

In many languages, “nervous” and “excited” have the same meaning.

So sometimes I hear, “I have to go to see the doctor today. I’m excited.”

Which isn’t the feeling I usually get when I have to go and see the doctor. Unless it’s THE doctor:

Doctor Who
Doctor Who Series 8 by Doctor Who Spoilers | CC BY 2.0

So “nervous” is basically the negative of “excited.” That feeling before an exam, seeing the doctor or when you’re about to cross a massive rope bridge.

Stressed

OK. We all know what this means, right?

Just remember that “stressed” is how you feel — not “stressful.”

Use “stressed” for the situation:

“I’m stressed. This Christmas shopping is really stressful. Perhaps I should become a pagan or something.”

Afraid

OK. As you’re about to see, we have three words for “afraid” and at least two for “very afraid.”

The first word for “afraid” is … erm … “afraid.”

Blog lists sometimes aren’t as simple as they seem to be.

Scared

This means “afraid.”

“It’s only a quick checkup — nothing to be scared of.”

Frightened

And again — it means “afraid.”

Why do we have so many words for “afraid”?

Why is Samuel L. Jackson in every film ever made?

The answer to both those questions is … “I don’t know.”

Terrified

This one means “very afraid.”

“Scared of spiders? He’s absolutely terrified of them.”

Petrified

This one also means “very afraid,” so it’s like “terrified,” but there’s a little extra meaning in there.

Originally this word meant “turned into stone.”

So it’s like you’re so frightened that you can’t move.

Like you’ve been turned into stone.

Unsettled

This is a mix of “worried” and “anxious.”

When you just can’t relax.

Think about how a mother might feel when her teenage kid is out with his friends.

She’s not relaxing until he’s home, right?

Or when you’re waiting for your latest exam result.

On edge

This is pretty much the same as “unsettled.”

Sometimes we use it to describe a personal characteristic.

We’ve all met that guy, right? The one who just can’t relax. Always worried about something.

He’s on edge.

“Every time the president says something it puts me on edge.”

Have butterflies in your stomach

Feeling nervous?

Then you’ve got butterflies in your stomach.

Nice phrase, yeah? I mean, it really feels like that sometimes, right?

Apprehensive

You know that feeling?

Something bad’s going to happen. But you don’t know what.

And you don’t know why.

You just know.

It’s basically about feeling worried about the future, even though there may not be any reason to.

Distressed

You might have noticed the word “stressed” in “distressed.”

Well, it’s similar but not quite the same.

“Distressed” means “upset” or “worried.”

Jittery

This is also a bit like “on edge” or “unsettled.”

And this time, we can really see it.

He just won’t sit down! Or stop walking up and down the room.

Think about someone who’s had too much coffee.

Fidgety

“Oh sit still! Please! You’re so fidgety.”
“I can’t — I’m too nervous. He’ll be here any moment.”

This one means you’re so nervous that you can’t stop moving parts of your body.

Maybe you’re kicking your leg against the chair or maybe just moving your hands around.

It’s similar to “jittery.”

Restless

A lot of these adjectives describe someone moving around because they’re too nervous.

And this is another one of those.

When you’re restless, you can’t relax because you’re too worried.

Uneasy

This one is quite general.

Use it to describe a general feeling of anxiety or discomfort.

Negative Feelings #2

Other Words for “Angry”

Negative feelings: other words for "angry"

Grrrr! She’s really angry.

But I would be too. I’m always angry when someone steals my dolls.

Furious

Very angry.

Livid

Very, very angry. We’re talking more than dolls here.

“How did he react to the news?”
“He was absolutely livid!”

Pissed off

Very angry. But be careful with this one — it’s pretty rude. Friends only!

Annoyed

Slightly angry and irritated.

It’s quite a low-level anger. Like when the builders next door are making loads of noise. Or that bee won’t leave you alone.

Miffed

This is basically the same as “annoyed.” It’s rather British, though.

“To be honest, I was a bit miffed when I found out they’d all gone to watch the new Star Wars film without me.”

Bitter

The older I get, the more I make sure I don’t get bitter.

You can look at people younger than you and say, “Hey! That’s cool! Look at them! I was that young once, but now it’s over and everything’s fine.”

Or you could choose to be bitter about it — hating the young because you just don’t have that fresh-faced beauty and trust in the world anymore.

I usually go for the first option. It’s the better one, right?

Enraged

Really, really angry. The same as “furious.”

It’s amazing how many words we have for “angry,” isn’t it?

Exasperated

Furious. Enraged. Pissed off. Very, very angry.

Why do we have so many of these?

At (your) wit’s end

When you’ve run out of patience, and you’re ready to explode!

“I’ve tried and tried, but I can’t get the pieces to fit. Honestly, I’m at wit’s end!”

Cross

This is basically the same as “angry.”

But it’s a little weaker.

I usually think of a mother saying something like:

“If you push that dog one more time, I’m going to be very cross with you.”

Fuming

Absolutely furious!

Again — we have a lot of words for “very, very angry.”

I’d like to know why.

Irate

Here’s another one. It means “very, very angry.”

Incensed

The last one. Guess what it means? Yep! Furious! Enraged! Pissed off! Livid! Fuming!

Or very, very angry.

Negative Feelings #3

Other Words for “Sad”

Negative feelings: other words for "sad"

She’s gone! The love of his life!

And they only got nine days together.

He’ll never forget her! Maybe.

Down

“Hey, how’s it going?”
“I dunno. I’m feeling a bit down today.”

Sometimes we just feel a bit sad. Maybe there’s a reason for it or maybe there isn’t.

Either way, we can say we’re feeling down.

Low

Or if you’re bored of using “down,” use “low” instead. They have the same meaning.

Both “down” and “low” are idiomatic adjectives.

Down in the dumps

“What’s a ‘dump’?” you might ask.

A dump is that place where all your rubbish goes after it gets collected.

Kind of a sad place, isn’t it?

Depressed

This is actually a medical term and can be a serious psychological disorder.

But sometimes we also use it when someone’s kind of “long-term” unhappy.

Maybe they’ve just split up with someone.

Or maybe they’ve been reading the news too much.

“I think he’s depressed. He hasn’t left the house for weeks.”

Unhappy

Erm … not happy.

Or sad.

Melancholic

This is an interesting one.

It’s a kind of sadness but has a daydreamlike quality to it.

It kind of feels like this:

via GIPHY

We often use it to describe the arts, like a melancholic song or a melancholic picture.

A melancholic scene in a film would have a kind of dreamy sadness to it.

Sullen

He’s in a bad mood, and he won’t really talk to anyone.

At best you’ll get a one-word answer from him.

He’s being sullen.

Sulky

This is similar to “sullen,” though a little more negative.

She hasn’t got what she wanted, and now she’s going to sulk.

She’s going to ignore you and not talk to you.

“Don’t be so sulky. There’ll be another ice cream van soon.”

Heartbroken

Have you ever suffered from a broken heart?

Remember that feeling? That’s being heartbroken.

Hurts, doesn’t it?

Crestfallen

So you got the promotion! You’ve been made mega-super-boss-manager, and you’re going to be on that massive salary, working in New York, company car, Manhattan penthouse flat. Everything!

Then you find out that you got the wrong memo, and in fact, you’ve been fired.

Very disappointed, right?

And sad. Very, very sad.

Or crestfallen.

Negative Feelings #4

Other Words for “Jealous”

Negative feelings: other words for "jealous"

She loves him.

He loves her.

And that other guy just isn’t happy about that.

Envious

There’s a subtle difference between envy and jealousy.

Jealousy is about fear — fear of losing something (or usually someone) to another person.

Envy is just that feeling of “You have that. And I want it!”

Green with envy

Yep. Envy comes in a colour.

And that colour is green!

You can use this like an adjective:

“Oh! You should’ve seen him! He was green with envy!”

The green-eyed monster

This one comes from the Shakespeare play, Othello.

We use it to describe jealousy as a character.

Some quick research shows that we can talk about dealing with the green-eyed monster, taming the green-eyed monster or how the green-eyed monster is a problem to overcome.

“They were getting along just fine. Then the green-eyed monster reared its ugly head.”

Yeah. Jealousy’s ugly.

Resentful

Have you ever been treated unfairly?

Maybe the cops stopped you for no reason.

Or maybe the guy who buys cakes for the boss got the promotion, even though he can’t count past 199.

Then you probably felt resentful.

Negative Feelings #5

Other Words for “Regretful”

Negative feelings: other words for "regretful"

“I can’t believe what I’ve done! I’ll never find a 1980s orange-and-brown vase again!”

Yeah. That’s probably a good thing.

Ashamed

Back in December, we looked at the differences between “ashamed” and “embarrassed.”

To summarise, shame is a negative feeling you get as a result of something about YOU.

Perhaps it’s because of something you’ve done that didn’t meet your own personal standards.

Embarrassed

If feeling ashamed is because of something you did that didn’t meet your own personal standards, feeling embarrassed is more about how other people look at you.

You feel bad because they might be laughing at you or judging you in some way.

“After what she did last week, she’s too embarrassed to show her face at work.”

Guilty

Feeling guilty is related to feeling bad, but not for yourself (that’s “ashamed”) but for other people.

Let’s say you borrow a friend’s iPad, and you break it.

That feeling in your stomach that you get because your friend doesn’t have an iPad anymore? That’s guilt.

Remorseful

This word is quite strong and means “very, very regretful and guilty for something you’ve done.”

This feeling is usually a long-term one — the subconscious dealing with what you’ve done.

Negative Feelings #6

Other Words for “Bored”

Negative feelings: other words for "bored"

There he is — stuck in a conversation with Megan. Probably the most boring woman EVER!

He’ll never escape.

Bored stiff

Very bored — about one minute into a conversation with Megan.

“When can we go? I’m bored stiff.”

Bored out of my mind

Very, very bored — about a minute and a half into a conversation with Megan.

Uninterested

Not interested. But not totally bored.

Sick and tired

This is a little different.

We use this when we talk about something we’re doing.

So you can get sick and tired of watching Game of Thrones (this happened to me after one episode) or sick and tired of working in the same place every day.

Negative Feelings #7

Other Words for “Tired”

Negative feelings: other words for "tired"

“Please. No … more … cat … videos.”

Interestingly, there are different ways of feeling tired.

I mean — are you tired because you haven’t slept?

Or have you just been running around too much?

Fatigued

Fatigue is that special kind of tiredness that happens after repeating something for a long time.

Maybe you’ve been cycling for eight hours, and you suddenly just need to stop.

Or maybe you’ve been working far too long without a holiday.

Exhausted

Very, very tired.

“Exhaust” means “to completely finish or run out of something.”

When you’re exhausted, you’ve completely run out of energy.

Knackered

Very, very tired.

This one’s very British.

So say it to Americans and watch them get confused.

Great fun!

“I didn’t think I’d be so knackered after just one hour with those kids.”

Beat

This one’s more American than British.

But the British understand it because American stuff is EVERYWHERE! (I guess you noticed.)

It also means “very tired.”

Drained

This is similar to “exhausted.”

Very, very tired. Usually because you’ve been too active or stressed.

Sleepy

This is simply the state of wanting to sleep.

Your bed is calling you.

“What was in that drink? It’s made me so sleepy.”

Burned out

You work and work and work and work.

Then you snap. You just can’t work any more.

This is the feeling of extreme fatigue as a result of being overworked in the long term.

Take a break, yeah?

Drowsy

This is similar to “sleepy.”

Your eyes are half closed.

You want to go to sleep.

You say “hmmm….” instead of … well, instead of any sentence at all.

You’re drowsy.

It could be just because you need some sleep.

Or maybe you’ve had too much to drink.

Some medications also have a warning label:

“Warning: may cause drowsiness.”

Worn out

This basically means “very tired,” “exhausted” or “knackered.”

It comes from the phrasal verb “to wear someone out.”


Wow — that was a long list.

But you made it this far! Well done!

You now know 60 words to describe negative feelings and emotions.

As a reward, have some lovely carrot cake:

Carrot cake
Cake Club Carrot Cake by Mack Male | CC BY 2.0

But let’s finish with a question or two (or four):

  1. Have you ever got burned out? If so, how did you deal with it? If not, how do you avoid it?
  2. Is there anyone you know who makes you feel embarrassed? Who? Why?
  3. What do you do to cheer up when you’re down in the dumps?
  4. When was the last time you were bored out of your mind? Why?

Let me know in the comments!

As soon as you reply, I’ll leave mine! 🙂

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4 thoughts on “60 Negative Emotion Adjectives to Describe Negative Feelings

  1. Hi Clark,
    This has been a very useful post indeed. I must say that the last time I was bored out of my mind was about a month ago when I met an old school friend who is a vegan and who is constantly talking against people like me who like eating some beef from time to time. I was really bored stiff!!!
    Thanks a lot for your posts and happy weekend, Clark.

    1. Haha! That’s quite funny.

      Although I sympathize with veganism, a lot of people can be very, very tiresome about their eating habits.

      I’m glad you continue to find these posts useful! Keep up the good work 🙂

  2. Hello Gabriel,
    Thank you for the precious material you’ve sent. It’s really astonishing how rich the English language is! I knew some (about 20%) of those expressions you’ve listed, but they were of course only in my passive vocabulary.
    As for your questions:
    1. Probably I didn’t tell you, I am a retired doctor. During my career, I felt really tired several times but I got burned out just less than ten times. It happened when I was on duty during the night and I have had many life-threatening cases to solve. When I managed to solve all of them until morning and my patients were getting better, I was exhausted physically, but not mentally. Besides being extremely tired, I had been feeling a sort of happiness, too. I got burned out when after an all-night struggle, one of my patients died. In this case, I lost even my tiny strength that I had had before.
    2. Yes, I felt embarrassed as a student at university when it happened not to know something that I had been supposed to know.
    3. Only music is that is able to cheer me up when I am down in the dumps. I love listening to classical music, mostly Mozart.
    4. I don’t remember if I had ever been bored out of my mind in my life.
    Best regards, Judit.

    1. Hi Judit.

      I’m really pleased you enjoyed the post and got some new vocab out of it.

      It sounds like your job was really stressful. It can’t be easy being right on the “front line” like you were and I have nothing but the utmost admiration for people like you who go through such traumatic experiences in the name of saving lives. Society owes you a great debt.

      What’s your favourite Mozart piece? I’m a big fan of Requiem’s first movement.

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