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MilkyWay's avatar

What's the difference between 'envy' and 'jealousy'?

Asked by MilkyWay (13705points) July 11th, 2011

As the question asks. What is the difference? Is one better than the other?

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21 Answers

thorninmud's avatar

I think it boils down to this:

Envy is a feeling of resentment because someone else has something that you wish you had.

Jealousy is an anxiety that something important to you will be taken by another.

Coloma's avatar

I agree with @thorninmud

I’d also add that often envy often results in one wanting to destroy anothers happiness as well.

Whenever someone puts down, minimizes or otherwise is withholding of a positive reaction, or show of goodwill towards anothers happiness or good fortune, envy is at work.

RubyB's avatar

Envy is the inactive component of wanting what someone else has. Jealousy is the active component of depriving them of it.

MissAnthrope's avatar

To me, envy doesn’t carry as dark a connotation as jealousy.

I might be envious that my friends are going on a weekend trip while I have to work. I really wish I was going, too, but I don’t begrudge them the good time, nor do I harbor any anger or ill-will.

Jealousy is envy mixed with darker emotions, like anger, resentment.. not wanting the person to have whatever it is because you can’t have it.

MilkyWay's avatar

Thanks guys, some mixed up answers though.
I’m confused again XD

marinelife's avatar


“painful or resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another joined with a desire to possess the same advantage”


“intolerant of rivalry or unfaithfulness b : disposed to suspect rivalry or unfaithfulness”

Merriam Webster

picante's avatar

I, too, view envy as the more benign of these related emotions. I’ve envied the good fortunes of others, as an example—but it is jealousy that eats at my soul. Jealously takes over when someone has what I think should be mine—there’s a sense of self-righteousness to it. Don’t mean to confuse you even more, MilkyWay. The Webster definition of “Jealous” as noted by Marinelife actually surprises me—I’m not sure I’ve use the word in that context.

MissAnthrope's avatar

From Wikipedia:

Jealousy is a secondary emotion and typically refers to the negative thoughts and feelings of insecurity, fear, and anxiety over an anticipated loss of something that the person values, particularly in reference to a human connection. Jealousy often consists of a combination of presenting emotions such as anger, sadness, resentment and disgust. It is not to be confused with envy. (link)


Envy (also called invidiousness) is best defined as an emotion that “occurs when a person lacks another’s (perceived) superior quality, achievement, or possession and either desires it or wishes that the other lacked it.

Envy can also derive from a sense of low self-esteem that results from an upward social comparison threatening a person’s self image: another person has something that the envier considers to be important to have. If the other person is perceived to be similar to the envier, the aroused envy will be particularly intense, because it signals to the envier that it just as well could have been he or she who had the desired object. (link)

Coloma's avatar

Truth in all the responses.

In my case, I have had several ex ‘friends’ that were very nasty and clearly took their envy to a whole new dimension in being outright nasty about my happiness, good fortunes and accomplishments. One, in particular became very obvious in going out of her way to pick fights with me based on her issues with both of the above.
I have always thought jealousy is the more benign, envy seems to carry a more with holding and sour grapes attitude IMO.

TexasDude's avatar

Jealousy deals primarily with relationships and a feeling of the loss or threat of the loss of someone special to you.

Envy deals with material objects and status.

MilkyWay's avatar

Soo many different definitions…
Thanks to everyone who answered :)

gailcalled's avatar

Personally, I would (and do) use them synonymously.

I envy him his happy marriage. I’d love a happy marriage but having his go bad will not guarantee me one.

I am jealous of his happy marriage.

I envy him his fortune.

I can see no connection between either word and wishing someone ill.

I am jealous of his fortune. If he goes bankrupt, I will not necessarily get rich.

I am jealous of her flawless skin. If she contracts leprosy, will that make my skin less blotchy?

I envy her her skin.

TexasDude's avatar

@gailcalled a lot of people do, but technically it is incorrect usage.

gailcalled's avatar

@Fiddle: According to whose technique?

If I feared the loss of someone special, I would say “I am frightened of losing her to cancer,” or ” I fear the worst.”

dabbler's avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard is correct. Envy is about someone’s else’s stuff or situation. Jealousy is about someone else’s time and attention.

TexasDude's avatar

@gailcalled according to the dictionary. Info.

I’m jealous if the girl I love starts banging my best friend.

I’m envious if I want someone else’s nice house and car.

gailcalled's avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard: I surrender. You have convinced me. Thanks for another interesting tidbit about the language I love.

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MilkyWay's avatar

Thank you for all your help everyone!
It was much appreciated :)

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