Monday, January 5, 2015

Are You Jealous or Envious?

So someone posts on Facebook "Hey, I'm going to Cabo!" and what does nearly everyone else comment? "Jealous!"

Yeah, that's so wrong.

Jealousy is when you are afraid of losing something. You are jealous your wife is flirting with another man. You jealously guard your Star Wars figures collection.

But you are envious when you want or desire some thing someone else has. You are envious of their trip to Cabo. You envy you're neighbor's wife (which is why he's jealous). You envy the talent of that guy in your writers' group.

Another word for "envy" is the old Biblical concept of "covet." "Do not covet thy neighbor's wife or donkey." (Believe me, I'll never covet my neighbor's donkey.)

If someone has it and you want it, that's envy.

If you're worried about losing something of yours, that's jealousy.

Don't confuse them.


  1. I had no idea I had been using them incorrectly. Thanks!

  2. Oh, how I love a fellow pedant. These two often get confused.
    The way I think of it is that we envy a person because, as you say, they have something we want (but could potentially have for ourselves if we put in the necessary work) and jealousy as the equivalent when it's to do with a relationship (which can include the relationship with your Star Wars figures as well as fearing that partners friendship with another person will take away their love for you).

  3. I envy the man who knows the difference between the two words. I'm jealous that my wife does too. Thanks for the clarification!