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Schadenfreude [shahd-n-froi-duh] is a German loanword meaning ‘pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others.’ The corresponding German adjective is ‘schadenfroh.’ The word derives from ‘Schaden’ (‘adversity,’ ‘harm’) and ‘Freude’ (‘joy’). An English expression with a similar meaning is ‘Roman holiday,’ a metaphor taken from the poem ‘Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage’ by Lord Byron, where a gladiator in Ancient Rome 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 is ‘morose delectation’ (‘delectatio morosa’ in Latin), meaning ‘the habit of dwelling with enjoyment on evil thoughts.’ ‘Gloating’ is a related English word 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 Buddhist concept of ‘mudita,’ ‘sympathetic joy’ or ‘happiness in another’s good fortune,’ is cited as an example of the opposite of schadenfreude. Alternatively, envy, 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 empathy, pity, or compassion.

One Comment to “Schadenfreude”

  1. Haven’t thought about schadenfreude for years. Thank you! I stumbled on this site by accident and it’s full of brilliant ideas. Love this stuff.

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