List of Emotions: 135 Words that Express Feelings

Categories of Emotions

The list of emotions a typical pre-K child understands may be limited to happy, mad, sad, and scared (Harter, S., & Buddin, B. J.), but as they grow, the list expands, and they develop a more nuanced vocabulary to explain how they feel.

Over the past 40 years, several frameworks have emerged to describe and categorize emotions. There is the Plutchik Wheel of Emotions, Ekmans’ Atlas of Emotions, and many others, but for this article, we are sharing a tree-like framework created by Dr. Phillip Shaver and his colleagues at the University of Denver.

In 1987, Shaver and his colleagues published Emotion Knowledge: Further Exploration of a Prototype Approach where they outlined a three-level hierarchy of emotions and categorized words within that hierarchy. In the paper, they identifed six primary emotions: Anger, Fear, Joy, Love, Sadness, and Surprise – And they identifed 25 secondary emotions and 135 words that represent more descriptive tertiary emotions.

emotion words

Here is the complete list of emotions and how they are categorized:

  1. Anger
    • Disgust: Contempt, disgust, revulsion
    • Envy: Envy, jealousy
    • Exasperation: Exasperation, frustration
    • Irritation: Aggravation, agitation, annoyance, grouchiness, grumpiness, irritation
    • Rage: Anger, bitterness, dislike, ferocity, fury, hate, hostility, loathing, outrage, rage, resentment, scorn, spite, vengefulness, wrath
    • Torment: Torment
  2. Fear
    • Horror: Alarm, fear, fright, horror, hysteria, mortification, panic, shock, terror
    • Nervousness: Anxiety, apprehension, distress, dread, nervousness, tenseness, uneasiness, worry
  3. Joy
    • Cheerfulness: Amusement, bliss, cheerfulness, delight, ecstasy, elation, enjoyment, euphoria, gaiety, gladness, glee, happiness, jolliness, joviality, joy, jubilation, satisfaction
    • Contentment: Contentment, pleasure
    • Enthrallment: Enthrallment, rapture
    • Optimism: Eagerness, hope, optimism
    • Pride: Pride, triumph
    • Relief: Relief
    • Zest: Enthusiasm, excitement, exhilaration, thrill, zeal, zest
  4. Love
    • Affection: Adoration, affection, attraction, caring, compassion, fondness, liking, love, sentimentality, tenderness
    • Longing: Longing
    • Lust: Arousal, desire, infatuation, lust, passion
  5. Sadness
    • Disappointment: Disappointment, dismay, displeasure
    • Neglect: Alienation, defeat, dejection, embarrassment, homesickness, humiliation, insecurity, isolation, insult, loneliness, neglect, rejection
    • Sadness: Depression, despair, gloom, glumness, grief, hopelessness, melancholy, misery, sadness, sorrow, unhappiness, woe
    • Shame: Guilt, regret, remorse, shame
    • Suffering: Agony, anguish, hurt, suffering
    • Sympathy: Pity, sympathy
  6. Surprise
    • Surprise: Amazement, astonishment, surprise

Teaching Emotional Literacy

Featured Lessons

To assist you as you help students understand emotions, we have created a series of lessons, worksheets, and printables. Many of these include characters from our online SEL games; however you aren’t required to use the online programs in order to use the lessons.

emotion words

Emotional Spectrum

It’s important that students learn to identify the degree of emotion they are feeling and use words that are more descriptive than mad, sad, happy, etc. 

In these worksheets, students will read emotion words that describe the range of one emotion and identify situations that make them feel that way.

identifying emotions activity

Identifying Emotions Activity

Identifying and managing feelings requires that we respond to emotional situations in a socially acceptable manner, and research shows that children who are good at identifying and managing their emotions feel better about themselves and have more successful friendships. 

This identifying emotions activity will students learn to recognize the physical signs associated with different emotions.

Anger Thermometer

Everyone feels angry from time to time, and it can be an overwhelming emotion. And like other emotions, anger comes in different strengths or degrees. 

Using this anger thermometer worksheet, students will reflect on situations where they feel angry and brainstorm ideas for how to calm down.

Emotion Faces

These emotion faces worksheets will help your students evaluate facial expressions and associate those expressions with a range of emotions.

In the lesson, we use characters from our online SEL game, Adventures Aboard the SS GRIN to illustrate the following feelings: angry, anxious, bored, confused, happy, impatient, sad, scared, and surprised.

Additional Emotional Literacy Lessons and Activities

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