101 Emotion Words List: Expand Your Emotion Vocabulary

101 Emotion Words List: Expand Your Emotion Vocabulary


Most people have a limited emotion vocabulary: they don't have many words to describe feelings. Having limited emotion words at your disposal gets in the way of you understanding yourself and others. This post includes a 101 emotion words list to help you better label what's happening for yourself and the people around you. 

Emotions are like your personal radar system always going out and bringing back pings of information. The better you are at labeling your emotions and understanding the information they have to offer, the better your life is. 


What's in This Post

Having Words to Describe Emotions is Key to Emotional Intelligence
Emotion Words: The Famous Four
Emotion Word Catchalls
Words for Happy Feelings
My 101 Emotions Words List
Comfortable Emotions List
Uncomfortable Emotions List
Books and Resources to Help Expand Your Feeling Words Vocabulary and EI

 Building Skills to Uplevel Life: Silver Lining Emotional Intelligence Workbook


Having Words to Describe Emotions is Key to Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence EQ vs IQ


Emotional intelligence (EI or EQ) is the ability to use emotions effectively in your life. It's about being able to understand and use your own emotions, and also being able to understand what other people are feeling and use that information productively. 

EQ may be more predictive of success in life than IQ.

EQ isn't a stagnant thing. It can be increased with education and emotion and communication skill building. 

Four foundational skills have been identified for building emotional intelligence: 

"The emotionally intelligent person is skilled in four areas:
identifying emotions,
using emotions,
understanding emotions,
regulating emotions.”

John Mayer and Peter Salovey

Emotional intelligence starts with identifying emotions. My 101 Emotions Words List found later in this post can help you do that. 


Emotion Words: The Famous Four

The Famous Four feeling words


When it comes to emotions, people tend to be taught what I call The Famous Four: mad, glad, sad, and afraid.

There are thousands of emotion words in the English language. You don't need to know near that number to effectively identify emotions, but only knowing four is very limiting. It creates an emotional handicap that gets in the way of understanding what’s going on for yourself and for others.

Notice that only one of the four—glad—is for anything feel-good. I believe that this contributes to our lack of recognition and savoring of feel-good emotions.

One of the four emotions is mad. I think that this contributes to the frequency of emotional pain being expressed as anger or felt as depression (anger turned inwards).

And one of the four is afraid. This overgeneralization of emotional pain makes for all emotions that have an element of fear (and many do) being clumped together. I think that this contributes to the epidemic of anxiety.

I have the least problem with sad. But sad tends to be overused as an emotional feeling-down catch-all. There may be other words that better describe what you are feeling. 


Emotion Word Catchalls


Emotion words Catchalls words to describe emotions


Some emotion words tend to be overused catchalls that don’t offer much information.

While a catchall might be what first comes to mind when you notice you’re feeling something—sort of the first line of defense—pushing yourself to see if you can come up with a more specific word could provide more useful information.

Tweezing out particular emotions rather than throwing everything in the same bucket will give you more information and may also help you overreact less.

Common emotion word catchalls include:

comfortable and uncomfortable
happy and sad

When you get to my 101 Emotions List below, it will be fairly easy to see that comfortable and uncomfortable cover a lot of territory, since they each label half of the words on my emotions list.

Hurt expresses a general feeling, much like uncomfortable (maybe with more intensity).

You might recognize that happy and sad are each represented in the Famous Four that I talked about earlier: mad, glad, sad, and afraid (glad being the equivalent of happy).

In working with thousands of clients, I’ve noticed that many people label a lot of their emotional pain as frustration. The information in frustration is “Here I am again in the same situation I don’t want to be in.” Sometimes frustration is the best word for what you’re feeling, but if you tend to overuse this label, ask yourself if there is another emotion word that might fit the occasion.

Anger is the ultimate catchall. The real information lies in identifying what’s under your anger. (I talk about that more in another blog post: Anger is a Secondary Emotion.)


Words for Happy Feelings


 Feeling words for happy feelings


It's just as important to identify your feel-good emotions as it is to identify your emotional pain or discomfort. 

An "emodiversity" study performed by US universities (including Cornell) and the German Institute for Economic Research found that people who identified a  wide range of positive emotions had less inflammation.

And less inflammation is a very good thing! Inflammation has been associated with many physical aliments, and also with mental health issues like anxiety and depression. The study's conclusion: 

"diversity in day-to-day positive emotions is related to reduced levels of systemic inflammation."

It is difficult to identify diverse feel-good emotions if you are stuck calling everything that feels good catchall terms like happy


My 101 Emotions Words List

Below is a list of 101 emotions that I created while working with individuals, couples, and groups, to help people build their emotion vocabulary. I use this list in all my books and products about emotions. 

This list isn’t all the emotion words that could be on a list, but it’s a good step up from four.

The emotions on the list are divided into comfortable and uncomfortable. I worked for years to figure out what to call them besides positive and negative, because those labels too easily leave the impression that some emotions are good and some are bad.

Surprised appears on both lists with an asterisk (*) as an example that not all emotions fit neatly into one or the other category. There are welcomed surprises and unwelcomed surprises.

Angry appears in parentheses on the uncomfortable list because anger is a secondary emotion. There is some kind of emotional pain or discomfort underneath the anger that is not getting dealt with directly. With any level of anger, from mild irritation to rage, the question is “What’s underneath this anger?” For any one anger event, there might be one emotion underneath or many.

Having not only mad, glad, sad, and afraid but also labels like disappointment, frustration, resentment, relief, and appreciated available greatly improves your understanding of yourself and others.


Comfortable Emotion Words List

  •  Accepted
  • Acknowledged
  • Amused
  • Appreciated
  • Attracted
  • Attractive
  • Calm
  • Capable
  • Caring
  • Competent
  • Confident
  • Connected
  • Considered
  • Content
  • Creative
  • Curious
  • Delighted
  • Empowered
  • Encouraged
  • Enthusiastic
  • Excited
  • Exhilarated
  • Grateful
  • Happy
  • Hopeful
  • Important
  • Included
  • Independent
  • Inspired
  • Interested
  • Liberated
  • Loved
  • Nurtured
  • Passionate
  • Protected
  • Proud
  • Reassured
  • Relaxed
  • Relieved
  • Respected
  • Safe
  • Satisfied
  • Secure
  • Stimulated
  • Supported
  • Surprised *
  • Trusted
  • Trusting
  • Understood
  • Valued
  • Welcome

* Surprised is an example of an emotion that is sometimes comfortable and sometimes uncomfortable.


Uncomfortable Emotion Words List

  • Abandoned
  • Afraid
  • (Angry) **
  • Anxious
  • Belittled
  • Betrayed
  • Concerned
  • Confused
  • Controlled
  • Deceived
  • Defeated
  • Defensive
  • Devastated
  • Disappointed
  • Disconnected
  • Discounted
  • Discouraged
  • Disrespected
  • Embarrassed
  • Excluded
  • Foolish
  • Frustrated
  • Grief
  • Guilty
  • Humiliated
  • Inadequate
  • Inferior
  • Insecure
  • Jealous
  • Lonely
  • Manipulated
  • Nervous
  • Obligated
  • Offended
  • Overwhelmed
  • Panic
  • Powerless
  • Pressured
  • Regret
  • Rejected
  • Resentful
  • Sad
  • Shame
  • Shocked
  • Surprised *
  • Trapped
  • Unappreciated
  • Unattractive
  • Violated
  • Vulnerable
  • Worried

* Surprised is an example of an emotion that is sometimes comfortable and sometimes uncomfortable.

** Angry is a secondary emotion: some other uncomfortable emotion(s) is/are under the anger.


Books and Resources to Help Expand Your Feeling Words Vocabulary and EI

I've been teaching people emotion and communication skills for several decades. Along the way, I've come up with unique ways to help people quickly advance their understanding and use of emotions. 

Here's some of the emotion skill-building tools that I created for working with my own clients and for other therapists to use in their work--and for individuals, couples, and families to use on their own. 

My 101 Emotions List is included in all of these products. 


Building Skills to Uplevel Life: Silver Lining Emotional Intelligence Workbook


 Emotional Intelligence Booster Card set


 A Quick Look at Emotions book

 A quick look at Demystifying Emotions is available as an eBook on Amazon, and on the website you're currently on in downloadable PDF and print versions


Learn, Let Go, Lighten Up: Silver Lining Emotional Detox Journal & Workbook 



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  • Ann Silvers
Comments 1
  • Ian Lubsey
    Ian Lubsey

    Thanks for the post. I agree that there are possible underlying causes for the display of anger, However a look at some words that are associated with anger could reveal some interesting information. Thanks again

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