'Envy' vs 'Jealousy': What's the Difference?

By Amy Gilmore, updated on October 30, 2023

Do you need to know the difference between 'envy' vs. 'jealousy?' This guide will help!

Here is a quick answer in case you are in a rush: 

  • 'Envy' is a noun or verb for an emotion or feeling of painful resentment towards something someone else possesses that you wish you had.
  • 'Jealousy' is a noun for a hostile disposition towards someone you believe has an advantage that could cause them to win a position or relationship you possess. 

There is a lot more to learn about these terms, though. Many people believe these terms mean the same thing, but experts report a key difference. Keep reading to learn the official definitions and expert opinions.

What is the Difference Between 'Envy' vs. 'Jealousy'

Most people believe 'envy' and 'jealousy' are the same thing. Dictionaries even list 'envy' in the definition of 'jealousy.' However, academic journals and studies on 'envy' and 'jealousy' show that the two emotions are different.

  • 'Jealousy' focuses more on the fear of losing something or of someone else replacing you.
  • 'Envy' is usually over something that someone else has that they wish they had.

Nevertheless, in conversation, people frequently use these terms interchangeably, and they are synonyms of each other.

Definition of 'Envy': What Does 'Envy' Mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, 'envy' is a noun defined as:

  •  A painful resentment of another's advantage with a desire to possess the same

It can also mean:

  • An object or subject of 'envy.'

'Envy' can also be a verb that means:

  • A feeling of envy on account of or toward something or someone
  • To display or feel envious

Synonyms and Similar Words to 'Envy'

  • Jealousy
  • Resentment
  • Hatred
  • Malice
  • Maliciousness
  • Enmity
  • Resent
  • Begrudge
  • Crave
  • Hunger for
  • Yearn
  • Hanker
  • Wish

Definition of 'Jealousy': What Does 'Jealousy' Mean?

The same dictionary defines 'jealousy' as a noun that means:

  • A jealous feeling, disposition, outlook, or attitude

It can also mean:

  • Vigilant and fervent partisanship

Synonyms and Similar Words to 'Jealousy'

  • Resentment
  • Envy
  • Hatred
  • Malice
  • Ill will
  • Covetousness
  • Enviousness

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce 'Envy' vs. 'Jealousy'

Now that you understand the meanings of these words, let's look at their pronunciations. By learning how to correctly pronounce these terms, you will feel more confident to use them in verbal and public communications.

So, here is a pronunciation guide you can refer to for 'envy' vs. 'jealousy':

  • Use this phonetic spelling to pronounce 'envy':


  • Use this phonetic spelling to pronounce 'jealousy':


Usage Tips: When to Use 'Envy' vs. 'Jealousy'

As I mentioned, grammatically, these terms are interchangeable. However, there are some occasions when one is more appropriate than the other. So, here are some tips to help you decide when to use 'envy' vs. 'jealousy.'

  • Use 'envy' when you are talking about something you wish you had that someone else owns.

For example, you could say:

I envy her beautiful long hair. 

  • Use 'jealousy' to describe the feeling someone has when they feel threatened that someone else will win the affection of someone they love.

As an example, you might hear someone say:

The close relationship she had with her father filled her stepmother with jealousy. 

  • Use 'jealousy' to describe a feeling someone has when they fear someone possesses an advantage that will aid them in taking their status or position.

So, you might say:

Debbie's jealousy was apparent when the new branch manager arrived.

  • Use 'envy' when you are referring to something someone covets that belongs to someone else.

As an example, you could say:

Do not envy me, I have worked hard for many years to achieve my goals. 

  • Use 'jealousy' about a fear that someone will take something you possess.

For example, I might say:

If you struggle with jealousy, work on your self-esteem. Having higher self-confidence will help you feel more secure. 

Sample Sentences Using 'Envy' vs. 'Jealousy'

Here are some sample sentences using these terms. Reading them will help you remember how to use 'envy' vs. 'jealousy.'


  • Envy is a challenging emotion for some people to overcome.
  • If you envy others, you should try putting yourself in their shoes.
  • Envy is not a positive feeling. Try replacing it with admiration and gratitude.
  • Instead of trying to get back at people who envy you, bite your tongue and focus on yourself.
  • Do not waste your life being envious of other people. If you see something you want, work on creating the things you desire in your life or developing the characteristics you envy in yourself.


  • If you have ever been the focus of jealousy, you know how uncomfortable it feels.
  • Jealousy is a powerful emotion that clouds a person's perception of others and themself.
  • I am sorry to hear that you are allowing your jealousy to affect you.
  • When she saw her boyfriend laughing with her college roommate, she was filled with jealousy.
  • If you are jealous of others, you must explore the reason and try to correct it internally.


  • The nerd had the last laugh at his high school reunion. His former classmates envied his accomplishments, and their jealousy was apparent when he talked to their wives.
  • The jealousy she felt when her boyfriend mentioned her attractive neighbor matched the envy she felt when she saw her neighbor kissing her gorgeous boyfriend.

Recap: 'Envy' vs. 'Jealousy'

We are almost done. But before you go, let's recap what you learned about the difference between 'envy' vs. 'jealousy': 

  • 'Envy' is a noun and verb that means to have a powerful and painful desire to have what another person has. 
  • 'Jealousy' is a noun for a fear that someone else possesses an advantage that provides them the ability to steal their position, status, or relationship with someone or something else. 

You can also learn about the correct meanings and usages of hundreds of other words like these in the confusing words section here. So, if you have been wondering about how to use other English phrases, check them out before you go.

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Written By:
Amy Gilmore
Amy Gilmore is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. She has been a professional writer and editor for the past eight years. She developed a love of language arts and literature in school and decided to become a professional freelance writer after a demanding career in real estate. Amy is constantly learning to become a better writer and loves sharing tips with other writers who want to do the same.

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