Envy or Jealousy? Five Common Word Pairs We Use Incorrectly—A Lot

Melissa Matthews

It’s likely that browsing Instagram at work has caused a serious case of envy as you toil away at your desk while your best friend sails in Croatia. Or, would it be a case of jealousy? Is there even a difference? Yes, but you shouldn’t feel bad for thinking these words are interchangeable.

According to a new study from psychology researchers, very few people realize these words are not synonyms. As the team writes in the paper, “These terms are so frequently confused in popular parlance (e.g., “I’m jealous that you’re going to Hawaii next week!”) that few people are aware that they differ.”

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No, you cannot use envy and jealousy interchangeably. Pixabay

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Published in the journal Frontiers in Education, the paper identifies 50 pairs of frequently misused psychology-related terms. Many are spoken in everyday conversations (and not just among psychology students or professors), though the study authors note even instructors confuse some of the terms. Chances are, there is at least one word that you’re not saying (or writing) properly. To save you the embarrassment from misspeaking (not to mention time combing through all 50), here are five word pairs you’ve likely used incorrectly.

Envy or Jealousy
Envy applies to two individuals, while jealousy applies to groups. If you’re upset about a teammate getting a promotion, you would be envious, not jealous. If you’re jealous of the employee perks at Google, then you’d be jealous of everyone who worked for the tech giant.

Prejudice or Discrimination
Often confusing, prejudice refers to thoughts, specifically ones that prejudge others. Discrimination goes further and describes acts in which people don’t treat others fairly.

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Race or Ethnicity
Ethnicity is a broad topic that includes race, but also includes so much more, like one’s birth country, customs and language. Race simply refers to the biological and physical, like a person’s skin color.

Repression or Suppression
How often have you (or someone you know), joked about repressing an embarrassing memory? If you mean to say that you’ve unconsciously forgotten the experience, then congrats, you’re using it correctly. However, if you mean to relay that you’re consciously forgetting the event, you would be suppressing the thought.

Antisocial or Asocial
You may want to rethink saying that you’re feeling antisocial as an excuse for staying in on a Friday night with pizza and Netflix. According to the study authors, being antisocial means exhibiting some sort of action against another person. Asocial is the correct way to express that you just want to avoid being around others.

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