by Kate Woodford

With summer just over, a time when sunny weather and holidays put people in a good mood, we thought we would try to keep those good moods going by looking at words and phrases that mean ‘happy’ and how these words express slight differences in meaning.

Let’s start with the fairly common word cheerful. Cheerful means ‘happy and hopeful’: He was very cheerful when we spoke last night. A similar adjective, combining those two emotions of happiness and hope, is bright: She was a bit upset last night but she seemed a lot brighter this morning.

The word content, meanwhile, combines ‘happy’ and ‘satisfied’. A person who is content is happy with the way their life is and does not want to change it: For now I think she’s quite content being at home with the children. The variant contented is also used.

There are a few adjectives that mean ‘happy because something has happened’, for example pleased and glad: I’m so pleased to have finished work! I’m just glad to see you! If someone is extremely happy because something has happened, they may be described as delighted or thrilled: I was delighted to hear your news!/We’re thrilled that Dan can come to the party. People also use the informal phrase thrilled to bits with the same meaning: I was thrilled to bits to be offered the job. An adjective with a similar meaning that is even more extreme is elated: The Prince was reported to be elated at the birth of his son. Meanwhile, if someone is jubilant, they are extremely happy because they have succeeded at something: The team were in a jubilant mood this week, after winning the award for the second year running.

Ecstatic and delirious mean ‘excited and extremely happy’. These are quite strong adjectives and often describe the mood and behaviour of large, excited groups of people: Pope Frances was greeted by ecstatic crowds in the capital./The Greek football team arrived home to a delirious reception in Athens. Exhilarated also means ‘excited and extremely happy’ but additionally contains the sense of ‘having a lot of energy’: I’d never skied so fast before and was completely exhilarated by the experience.

The adjective cheery is used to mean ‘showing or expressing happiness’ and often describes something that someone says or does: She gave us a cheery wave./He answered the phone with a cheery “Good morning!”. Someone who is usually happy and rarely gets anxious or upset may be described as sunny: My younger daughter has a fairly sunny disposition generally.

An experience that is completely happy is sometimes said to be blissful: We had a blissful holiday – just the two of us.

Finally, idioms that are sometimes used to describe extremely happy states are be walking/floating on air, (UK) be over the moon and be on top of the world: I was floating on air after the birth of our daughter./I couldn’t believe I’d passed the exam – I was over the moon./It was such a great feeling to get the gold medal – I was on top of the world.

So whether you’re over the moon, on cloud 9 or in seventh heaven, stay happy!

8 thoughts on “Happiness!

  1. I think it’s worth noting that, in the US at least, “ecstatic” often (though not always) describes a state of spiritual or religious elation, while “delirious” often describes a potentially destructive state induced by psycho-active drugs, such as alcohol. This is a difficult area under the best of circumstances.

    1. Surya Sharon

      You are absolutely correct. “Ecstatic” is often used in churches to describe people who talk in tongues.

  2. Muogbo Cosmas

    Happy or Happiness is an important word in a world filled with ups and downs in the life of people.The synonyms of happy show the degree to which someone can be happy such as:excited,cheerful,delighted, thrilled,ecstasy,elated etc.The daily pressures of this life make it difficult for people to be ecstatic or at least delighted. On the average,people are excited or cheerful.It’s important for one to free it’s mind and be happy.It doesn’t matter the degree of happiness.One has to and must always find a reason or two to be happy.Being moody or in a cheerless place most of the times can only be detrimental to one’s health.

    On 9/22/13, Cambridge Dictionaries Online blog

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