Key Difference Between Jealousy and Envy

, Staff Writer
Updated July 9, 2020
difference between jealous and envy
    difference between jealous and envy
    jealous: Andrew_Rybalko / iStock / Getty Images Plus , envy: Andrew_Rybalko / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Whether you are jealous or envious, the feeling isn’t a good one. While these two words might seem interchangeable, they are each unique. Explore the definition for jealousy vs. envy through examples.

What’s the Difference Between Jealousy and Envy?

Jealousy and envy are great word choices to add color to your writing because they can capture how your characters feel. For example, what would a Midsummer Night's Dream be without jealousy and envy? Actually, what would any Shakespearean work be without jealousy and envy? While it might seem like these two words are synonymous, they actually aren’t. To understand the subtle differences of jealousy vs. envy, you need to look at each word in turn.

What Is Jealousy?

So what does it mean to be jealous? Jealousy describes a feeling of protectiveness or insecurity you have over a rivalry or being replaced. This typically happens in a significant relationship and requires three people (you, the significant person, and another).

For example, if someone flirts with your boy- or girlfriend, it produces jealousy. You feel resentful, hurt, and angry that person is flirting with someone you love. You might even start to worry that person can and will replace you.


Jealousy in Literature

Need a literary reference? Give these modern and classic jealousy themes a try.

  • Peeta and Gale both felt jealousy over Katniss at one point in the Catching Fire.
  • Ron Weasley was highly jealous of Hermione’s relationship with Viktor Krum in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
  • In Othello, Othello’s jealousy Desdemona actually led to his own death.

Sentence Examples of Jealousy

Check out a few more examples of jealousy through these unique sentences.

  • Jealousy curled in Jennifer’s stomach as she watched her boyfriend talk to the new girl.
  • Kate’s innocent flirting sent her boyfriend into a jealous rage.
  • Elena was jealous of how much time her best friend was spending with her sister.
  • Brad couldn’t seem to contain his jealousy over his ex-girlfriend's new relationship.
  • When his friend laughed with the new kid, jealousy bit at him like vipers.

Envy Definition

Envy is often confused with jealousy. However, where jealousy takes three parties to happen, envy only takes two. Envy is internal longing you feel for something someone else has. You could be envious of anything from a personality trait to a possession. In pop culture, envy can be a great trait to drive a villain. For example, Buddy Pine was envious of the incredibles super powers in the movie Incredibles.

Envy in Literature

Jealousy isn’t the only theme running rampant in literature. You can find envy too. Explore these literary examples of envy.

  • Clare is envious of Irene’s life in the book Passing, and it leads to tragedy.
  • It’s easy to see the envy Crystal has of Mina unfold in the book Mina.
  • You can find classic envy between Tom and Gatsby in The Great Gatsby.

Examples of Envious in a Sentence

Now that you’ve seen envy in fiction, it’s time to check out how it might be used in a sentence.

  • Kirk is envious of Dillon’s new car.
  • Gatsby was envious of Tom’s good fortune.
  • The envy she felt toward the rich family was bitter in her mouth.
  • Abbie was envious of Carol’s A.
  • She tried not to envy her sister, Katie, but it was hard when Katie was perfect.

Jealousy vs. Envy in Bible Examples

It’s time to get Biblical. Well, to look at Biblical meanings, that is. Both envy and jealousy can be found in the Holy Bible in different contexts. These contexts can make an important distinction between the two words.

  • In the Bible, you can find reference to a jealous God in Exodus 20:4-5. In this context jealousy is used to mean worshiping only the one true Christian God and not other Gods. However, you’ll also find jealousy in other areas of the Bible too.
  • While jealousy in the Bible isn’t great, envy is actually one of the seven deadly sins. It also makes its way into several verses like Proverbs 14:30: A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones. In Biblical terms, envy is definitely bad.

Jealous and Envious: the Difference

While jealousy and envy can overlap and intertwine, these two words do have some subtle differences. Therefore, using them correctly in grammar is key. Now that you know the difference between jealousy and envy, you might want to check out our vs. are.