Express Yourself With This List Of Emotions And Feelings

It isn’t always easy to describe your feelings, but learning the vocabulary of emotions can help. According to the model developed by psychologist Paul Ekman, humans have six basic emotions:

But, much like shades of colors, there are many shades of each of these basic emotions. We are going to look at some synonyms (or near-synonyms) for each and learn how we can use these terms to add nuance and depth to our descriptions of emotional states.


The first basic emotion is happiness, “the quality or state of being happy.” Happy means “characterized by or indicative of pleasure, contentment, or joy.” In other words: good vibes. Happy is an adjective, and happiness is a noun. Many emotional states have both an adjective and noun form. When possible, we have provided both.

Other synonyms for happiness or happy are:

One example of a sophisticated synonym for happiness is euphoria, “a state of intense happiness and self-confidence.” The adjectival form of this word is euphoric. If you are substituting a basic term like happiness or happy in a sentence with a more sophisticated one like euphoria or euphoric, you will want to make sure that you use the same part of speech in each. For example:

  • I was always happy on Christmas morning. (adjective)
  • I was always euphoric on Christmas morning. (adjective)
  • The crowd erupted in cheers of happiness. (noun)
  • The crowd erupted in cheers of euphoria. (noun)

Being in love can fill your whole heart with joy. Here are some idioms for expressing love when you’re that head-over-heels kind of happy.


The second major emotion is a bit of a downer: sadness, also known as sorrow. The adjectival form of sadness is sad, meaning “affected by unhappiness or grief; sorrowful or mournful.” Interestingly, sad comes from the Old English sæd, which once meant “sated, full.” Too much of a good thing, maybe.

Other synonyms for sadness or sad are:


Fear is one of the most “primal” or immediate emotions. It’s important for keeping us alive, after all. When one feels fear, they are afraid.

Other synonyms for fear or afraid are:

Different synonyms express different degrees and kinds of emotion. For example, terror is a more intense fear than uneasiness. However, emotions aren’t often neat and tidy; there is usually some overlap. One can feel multiple degrees or kinds of emotions at once. In these cases, it can be helpful to pile up synonyms to really get the emotion across. For example:

  • We were consumed with fear thinking about the upcoming competition.
  • We were consumed with dread, consternation, and uneasiness thinking about the upcoming competition.


The fourth major emotion is one that might make your stomach turn: disgust, “a strong distaste.” The adjective form of this meaning of disgust is disgusted. Disgust can also be used as a verb meaning “to cause extreme dislike or revulsion in,” as in “his manners disgust me.” There is a reason that disgust is closely related to the stomach: it comes from the Middle French desgouster meaning roughly “not of (good) taste.”

Other synonyms for disgust or disgusted are:

A common synonym for disgusted is loath, meaning “unwilling; reluctant; disinclined; averse.” This should not be confused with the verb loathe, with a terminal -e, meaning “to feel disgust or intense aversion for.”


Anger, “a strong feeling of displeasure and belligerence aroused by a wrong,” is the fifth major emotion and possibly the most unpleasant. The adjective form of anger is angry, “feeling or showing anger or strong resentment.” There are a lot of colorful expressions for describing anger such as:

Other synonyms for anger or angry are:

Being angry, cranky, and tired often go hand in hand. Find out more ways to express your fatigue!


It’s nice to end on one of the more pleasant of the major emotions: surprise. Surprise describes the feeling of experiencing something completely unexpected. Surprise typically goes along with feelings of confusion, which is a theme you will see in many of its synonyms.

Other synonyms for surprise or surprised are:

As we have noted, many emotions come in adjective and noun forms. In some sentences, you can combine both of these forms to make your emotions particularly clear. For example:

  • The explorers were baffled and expressed their shock at the situation.
  • No one on the town council was more disoriented than Mr. Jones, who seemed overwhelmed with bewilderment.

Tips for writing about emotions

Degrees of emotions

When it comes to using synonyms, it is important to match the term to the degree and kind of the emotion you are describing. For example, dispirited is generally a less intense feeling of sadness than desolation. Dispirited means “discouraged; dejected; disheartened; gloomy.” Desolation means “sorrow; grief; woe.” With this in mind, which of these synonyms for sadness would fit best into the following sentence?

  • The soccer team felt ______ after they lost the match 2-1.

While it is a bummer to lose a match, it probably would not cause grief (unless it was a championship game or the World Cup, maybe). Dispirited would be a better fit in this sentence. Remember to check the meaning of synonyms to see if they truly fit the feeling you are describing.

Using prepositions

One tricky thing about describing emotions in English is that often they are used with specific prepositions such as with, by, to, toward, etc. The rules governing which prepositions to use when are complex, and some emotions can be used with multiple prepositions. It is important to keep this in mind when using synonyms. If you aren’t sure which prepositions to use, look at the example sentences for the entry to give you an idea. For example:

  • At the court, the royals were disgusted by the jester’s jokes.
  • At the court, the royals were repulsed by the jester’s jokes.

In this case, both disgusted and repulsed use the preposition by to describe what caused or triggered their emotion. The adjective antipathetic, however, usually uses the prepositions to or toward. Antipathetic means “opposed, averse, or contrary.” So, if we use this in our sentence instead, it becomes:

  • At the court, the royals were antipathetic toward the jester’s jokes. 

What is alexithymia?

Did you know there is a word for not being able to describe emotions? It’s alexithymia, “difficulty in experiencing, expressing, and describing emotional responses.” With so many synonyms for the six basic emotions, we hope this helps with any difficulties along those lines you may face.

Feel like you have emotion words down? Try the quiz!

Being able to describe the full spectrum of human emotions unlocks a lot of new ways of talking about the world and the people in it. Worried you won’t have a way to remember all these words? Have no fear! Don’t lose your cool! And turn that frown upside down! You can keep track of all these feeling words with our emotions word list and test your skills with our emotions quiz!

Thankful you found this list of emotion words? Learn different ways to express your gratitude!

Previous How To Write An Abstract: Tips And Examples Next Above And Beyond: List Of Prepositions By Type, With 75+ Examples