On the edge of my seat: talking about excitement

John M Lund Photography Inc/ DigitalVision/GettyImages

by Liz Walter

Today, I’m going to write about words and phrases for describing excitement. I’ll start with a very basic point that often causes trouble for learners of English: the difference between exciting and excited. Remember to use -ing adjectives for the things that cause a feeling, and -ed adjectives for the person experiencing the feeling:

Our trip to see the whales was really exciting.

Everyone was excited about seeing the whales.

When children (or sometimes adults) behave in a silly way because they are too excited about something, we say they are over-excited:

Lucy knocked her drink over – I think she’s a bit over-excited.

We use the word exhilarating to describe exciting experiences, especially when they involve physical feelings or actions. The people experiencing the excitement are exhilarated:

It was so exhilarating to ski on the fresh snow.

When we reached the top of the mountain, we were exhilarated and exhausted.

Thrilling also means ‘very exciting’, and we talk about the thrill of doing something exciting. However, thrilled is almost always used in a more restricted way to mean ‘extremely pleased’:

He had some thrilling adventures when he was young.

She’s addicted to the thrill of skydiving.

Peter was thrilled with his present.

The word heady is used to describe situations or periods of time where someone feels happy and excited. It often implies that someone feels more confident or free than usual:

They bought the cottage in the heady months after their wedding.

An intoxicating feeling or experience is very exciting and enjoyable. People can be described as being intoxicated with something:

For Max, this academic freedom was intoxicating.

She was intoxicated with fame.

A few idioms connected with fear can also be used for excitement, depending on the context. For instance, you could say that a very exciting movie kept you on the edge of your seat, or that your heart skipped/missed a beat when you saw something exciting.

If something makes you excited, you can say that it sets your pulse racing:

This young actor is setting pulses racing all over the world.

In much more informal language, stoked and buzzing are common words for ‘excited’:

Daisy was stoked to be invited.

When we arrived in New York, I was just buzzing.

People also say, informally, that they are buzzing for something when they are excited about something that is going to happen in the future:

I’m buzzing for Sophie’s party.

I hope you are excited, thrilled and stoked to learn some new words and phrases, not to mention buzzing for more posts!

23 thoughts on “On the edge of my seat: talking about excitement

      1. Liz Walter

        No, sorry Renwick, I’ve never heard anyone say that. I think Kamran’s is OK, though it’s more common to day that someone ‘is stoked’.

    1. Liz Walter

      Thank you – keep looking: you will find a post from me every 2 weeks. You will probably find my colleague Kate Woodford’s posts useful too – just click on her name on the right of the page.

  1. Thank you, Liz. I got a question.
    “exhilarating:…especially when they involve physical feelings or actions…”
    Action can be countable and uncountable.
    Exhilarating experiences often involve physical action(s).
    What is the difference between action and actions here?

    1. Liz Walter

      That’s a difficult question! i could have used either here. If you use the countable sense, it has more the suggestion of individual actions, where as the uncountable sense means action in general – but it’s very subtle!

  2. I have another question about sets your pulse racing.
    Does it always mean someone is excited? Can it apply to other situations that make his heart rate increase?

    For example,
    The horror movie sets his pulse racing.
    It sets pulses racing to see a mom holding a baby, standing on the edge of the roof.

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