When I look up envy in my dictionary, it says it is “a feeling of discontented or resentful longing aroused by another’s better fortune.” Okay, then, I must be envious.
But then I look up jealous and it says “envious or resentful of a person or a person’s advantages.” You know you’re in trouble when the word envious is used to define jealous. Should I be jealous instead, then?
What exactly is the difference here?
In practice, people use the word jealousy in a way that overlaps with envy. But there is a distinction between the two terms. After seeing what Grammar Girl had to say and investigating the psychological distinction between the two states, I decided that Common Errors in English Usage has the most useful definition:
You can be envious of what others have that you lack (like a rare and beautiful piece of jewelry).
Jealousy, on the other hand, involves wanting to hold on to what you do have. This is why this term comes up a lot in romantic relationships that are threatened by another person.
I am envious of of your fabulously expensive collection of antique jewelry. As your friend, I don’t understand why you won’t let me borrow that sinuously appealing snake amulet to impress my boyfriend. Just once? Pleeeease?
Fine. Clearly you are jealous of your jewelry collection and you don’t want any of it to get lost through carelessness. I guess I can understand that. What I can’t understand is your constant flaunting of your wealth and beauty in front of my boyfriend. I can’t help but be jealous, you know. It’s early days in our relationship. And when you’re around I feel like I’m second best.
Oh, so now you’ve decided to wear that sexy snake amulet when you know we are going out with my boyfriend? For the love of…I thought you were my friend! Hey, you don’t look so good. You look weird. You’re…changing? What the —
Okay, now she’s gone and turned in to a garter snake. Wow, I’m so glad I didn’t wear that amulet. I guess I don’t have to be envious of her good looks any more!
Bonus Word: Jewelry
How do you spell jewelry? The British spelling is jewellery, and the American spelling is jewelry. (As a Canadian, I end up dealing with both of them.) Which version do you prefer?
This post is dedicated to Jaso and Brenna Layne.
Image from Wikimedia Commons
Unless otherwise noted, definitions are from the Canadian Oxford Dictionary.
Stay tuned for Monday’s post, when I will kidnap the know-it-all letter K…
© Sue Archer and Doorway Between Worlds, 2015