The difference between jealousy and envy



In Swedish, as in English, there is a word for envy (avund) and one for jealousy (svartsjuka). Swedes, however, are much better than using the words correctly. In English, people usually use the word jealous when they actually mean envious. What is the difference?

Envy means that you would like what someone else has. It could be an attribute or a possession. It needs two parties. You and the person who has the thing you would like. Envy can be a verb or a noun. Example: I envy your patience.

Jealousy means that you feel threatened or insecure about something you already have. It needs three parties, You, what you have, and the person who you feel threatens it.  My girlfriend is jealous of other girls because she thinks they will take me away from her.

Envy cannot take the place of jealous, but in some cases jealous can take the place of envious. This is why people most commonly use the word jealous when they should use the word envious.

I am envious fairly often, but have never been jealous. For me, being jealous is pointless. You can’t change other people’s behaviour by being jealous of them. All it does is make you feel awful yourself. This has meant that partners have felt that I am uncaring. Sometimes they have tried to make you jealous to prove my affection for them but it tends to have the opposite affect.

On a totally other note – I really like green. From acid green to dark green to racing green to bright green. I love it. Unfortunately it does not love me.

Author: Janet Carr

Fashion, beauty and animal loving language consultant from South Africa living in Stockholm, Sweden.

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