AskDefine | Define jealous

Dictionary Definition

jealous adj
1 showing extreme cupidity; painfully desirous of another's advantages; "he was never covetous before he met her"; "jealous of his success and covetous of his possessions"; "envious of their art collection" [syn: covetous, envious]
2 suspicious or unduly suspicious or fearful of being displaced by a rival; "a jealous lover" [syn: green-eyed, overjealous]

User Contributed Dictionary




First coined 1382, from Late Latin zelosus < ζήλος < ζηλόω.


jealous ( more jealous, most jealous)

Derived terms


bitterly or enviously competitive
suspecting rivalry
fearful of being replaced, in position or in affection
protective, guarding

Extensive Definition

Jealousy typically refers to the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that occur when a person believes a valued relationship is being threatened by a rival. This rival may or may not know that he or she is perceived as a threat.


Parrott makes use of the cause of jealousy to define it: “jealousy is an emotion experienced when a person is threatened by the loss of an important relation with another person” (Parrot, 2001, p. 313). He further defines it also as “a type of anxious insecurity following from the perception of threat to a relation” which sustains the jealous’ self (Parrot, 2001, p. 314). Prinz (2004, p. 93) says that jealousy is a “non basic emotion”, meaning that “it is combination of basic emotions with other mental states that are not emotions”. His statement has a foundation on the concept of basic and non basic emotions, which he takes from Plutchik. Prinz (2004, p. 93) suggests that jealousy “contains anger, sadness, disgust” (basic emotions), “all brought together by the belief that one’s lover has been unfaithful” (mental state). Further, Goldie says jealousy is a passion, focusing his definition on the effects of jealousy, which “frequently get out of control” (2000, p. 229). It is a common observation that the experience of jealousy can last much longer than the one of a basic emotion like anger, without losing its original intensity, and, in a paradox captured in Rochefoucauld's maxim, it may outlast the attachment which it fears losing: "jealousy is always born with love; it does not always die with it."
The word "jealousy" is frequently used to describe what is more properly envy, fixation on what someone else has. Envy and jealousy are distinct in their object (Goldie, 2000, p. 221). Jealousy concerns something one has and is afraid of losing, while envy concerns something one does not have and either he wants to acquire (nonmalicious envy) or he wants the other(s) not to have (malicious envy) (Parrot, 2001, p. 309).


The word stems from the French jalousie, formed from jaloux (jealous), and further from Low Latin zelosus (full of zeal), in turn from the Greek word ζήλος (zelos), sometimes "jealousy", but more often in a good sense "emulation, ardour, zeal" (with a root connoting "to boil, ferment"; or "yeast").

Occurrence of Jealousy

Jealousy is a familiar experience in human relationships. It has been reported in every culture and in many forms where researchers have looked. It has been observed in infants as young as 5-6 months old and in adults over 65 years old.
Jealousy has been an enduring topic of interest for scientists, artists, and theologians. Psychologists have proposed several models of the processes underlying jealousy and have identified individual differences that influence the expression of jealousy. Sociologists have demonstrated that cultural beliefs and values play an important role in determining what triggers jealousy and what constitutes socially acceptable expressions of jealousy. Biologists have identified factors that may unconsciously influence the expression of jealousy. Artists have explored the theme of jealousy in photographs, paintings, movies, songs, plays, poems, and books. Theologians have offered religious views of jealousy based on the scriptures of their respective faiths.


Jealousy involves an entire “emotional episode,” including a complex “narrative,”: the circumstances that lead up to jealousy, jealousy itself as emotion, any attempt at self regulation, subsequent actions and events and the resolution of the episode (Parrott, 2001, p. 306). The narrative can originate from experienced facts, thoughts, perceptions, memories, but also imagination, guess and assumptions. The more society and culture matter in the formation of these factors, the more jealousy can have a social and cultural origin. By contrast, Goldie (2000, p. 228) shows how jealousy can be a “cognitively impenetrable state”, where education and rational belief matter very little.
One explanation of the origin of jealousy in evolutionary psychology is that the emotion evolved in order to maximize the success of our genes: it is a biologically based emotion (Prinz after Buss and Larsen, 2004, p. 120) selected to foster the certainty about the paternity of one’s own offspring. A jealous behavior, in men, is directed into avoiding sexual betrayal and a consequent waste of resources and effort in taking care of someone else’s offspring. There are, additionally, cultural or social explanations of the origin of jealousy. According to one, the narrative from which jealousy arises can be in great part made by the imagination. Imagination is strongly affected by the culture a person is inserted in. The pattern of reasoning, the way one perceives situations, depends strongly on cultural context.

Psychology of jealousy

While mainstream psychology considers sexual arousal through jealousy a paraphilia (categorized as zelophilia), some authors on sexuality (Serge Kreutz, Instrumental Jealousy) have argued that jealousy in manageable dimensions can have a definite positive effect on sexual function and sexual satisfaction. Studies have also shown that jealousy sometimes heightens passion towards partners and increases the intensity of passionate sex.
People who experience pathological jealousy, and people for whom jealousy triggers violence, may benefit from professional counseling. People who experience normal jealousy may avail themselves of multiple coping strategies The problem-solving strategies include: improving the primary relationship, interfering with the rival relationship, demanding commitment, and self-assessment. The emotion-focused strategies include: derogation of partner or rival, developing alternatives, denial/avoidance, support/catharsis, and appraisal challenge. These strategies are related to emotion regulation, conflict management, cognitive change, and ground rules for managing jealous competition. The most important thing to do about any feelings of jealousy is to first admit them, and then attempt to overcome them. Polyamory groups encourage the replacement of jealousy with compersion, or empathizing with a lover's joy with another lover.

Sociology of jealousy

Anthropologists have claimed that jealousy varies across cultures. Cultural learning can influence the situations that trigger jealousy and the manner in which jealousy is expressed. Attitudes toward jealousy can also change within a culture over time. For example, attitudes toward jealousy changed substantially during the 1960s and 1970s in the United States. People in the United States adopted much more negative views about jealousy.

Jealousy in art

Jealousy is the powerful complex of emotions experienced at the loss, real or imagined, of something or someone you believe is yours, whereas envy concerns what you don’t have and would like to possess. Othello is filled with jealousy at the thought of losing Desdemona: Iago is consumed with envy of Othello’s prestige. Because jealous lovers tell multiple stories about those who arouse their jealousy, and because the emotion is so corrosive, jealousy is a common theme in literature, art, theatre, and film.

Jealousy in religion

Jealousy in religion examines how the scriptures and teachings of various religions deal with the topic of jealousy. Religions may be compared and contrasted on how they deal with two issues: concepts of divine jealousy, and rules about the provocation and expression of human jealousy.

Further reading

  1. Peter Goldie: The emotions, A philosophical Exploration – Oxford University press, 2000
  2. W. Gerrod Parrott: Emotions is Social Psychology – Psychology press, 2001
  3. Jesse J. Prinz: Gut Reactions, A perceptual Theory of Emotions – Oxford University press, 2004

See also


External links

jealous in Arabic: غيرة
jealous in Breton: Gwarizi
jealous in Catalan: Gelosia
jealous in German: Eifersucht
jealous in Spanish: Celos
jealous in Esperanto: Ĵaluzo
jealous in French: Jalousie
jealous in Ido: Jaluzeso
jealous in Italian: Gelosia (sentimento)
jealous in Hebrew: קנאה
jealous in Hungarian: Féltékenység
jealous in Dutch: Jaloezie (gevoel)
jealous in Newari: ईर्ष्या
jealous in Occitan (post 1500): Gelosiá
jealous in Portuguese: Ciúme
jealous in Russian: Ревность
jealous in Sicilian: Gilusìa (sintimentu)
jealous in Simple English: Jealousy
jealous in Slovak: Žiarlivosť
jealous in Serbian: Љубомора
jealous in Swedish: Svartsjuka
jealous in Yiddish: קנאה
jealous in Chinese: 妒忌

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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