List of Emotions: 271 Emotion Words (+ PDF)
What are emotions? What are the theories behind emotions? And how do you describe different emotions? Learn all about emotions here and get lists of emotions for adults or kids.
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Emotions are an important part of the human experience. We feel a variety of different things, and being able to put a label on those feelings is helpful for increasing self-awareness and self-understanding. So how do we gain understanding of our emotions? Well, a list of emotions may help us think through how we experience each one.
List of Emotions (According to the Discrete Emotion Theory)
There are a few theories of emotion that help organize different emotions and help us understand how they relate to each other. The most well-known of these theories is the discrete (or basic) theory of emotion. This was the theory used in the movie Inside Out. The basic premise is that emotions are separate, discrete things and that they are basic because they originate from having to deal with fundamental life tasks like running away from a predator (Ekman, 1999).
The list of emotions from this theory include:
Just because these emotions are basic and discrete does not mean they can't vary in intensity. For example, each basic emotion may include a variety of emotional experiences. We'll describe these a bit more below.
List of Emotions and Definitions
Enjoyment is thought to be the only basic positive emotion. It may include other positive emotional experiences such as:
Sadness is a low-activation (low-energy) negative emotion that we often feel in response to things like rejection or loss. A list of sadness related emotions include:
Fear is a high-activation, avoidance-motivated negative emotion that we tend to feel in response to threats. Here's a fear-related emotion list:
Like fear, anger is a high-activation negative emotion. But unlike fear, it is an approach-motivated emotion. When we feel anger we want to approach the object of our anger rather than run away from it. Here is a list of anger-related emotions:
Disgust is an avoidance-motivated emotion. There is something that we don't want to be around or experience, and we desire to move away. Here are some disgust-related words:
List of Emotions (According to the Circumplex Emotion Theory)
Although the basic theory of emotion makes some sense, others have argued that emotions are not discrete things. They don't have specific locations in the brain, they almost always co-occur with each other, and there are many blends of emotions. Reasons like these led psychologists to develop the Emotion Circumplex Model (Russell, 1980).
This model suggests that emotions can be mapped in a circle. These are two axes: one axis is from high to low energy; the other axis is from high to low pleasure. Early researchers believed any emotion could be mapped on this circle. However, more recent research has suggested that there may be more than two dimensions required to understand and map emotions. For example, one study suggested that mapping emotions on how controllable and useful they are is helpful. Plus, this adds two additional dimensions (Trnka et al., 2016). Basically, the only thing we really know for certain about emotions is that they are complex.
Here is a list of emotions from the Emotion Circumplex Model:
High-energy positive emotions:
List of Emotions (From Plutnik's Wheel of Emotions)
Another well-known model of emotions is Plutnik's wheel. This wheel suggests that there are primary, secondary, and tertiary emotions. Each of the emotions in the wheel can be combined to create new emotions. Here is a list of emotions from Plutnik's model:
List of Positive Emotions
Positive emotions are pleasant or desirable states. When we think of positive emotions, we often think of happiness. But positive emotions include so much more than that. They range from high-energy emotions like excitement to low-energy positive emotions like calmness. The extent to which we find these emotional states pleasurable depends on us. Some of us prefer excitement to calmness and some of us prefer the opposite. And some have suggested that there are genetic underpinnings to these preferences (e.g., the COMT gene).
Here is a list of some of the most common positive emotions:
List of Negative Emotions
Negative emotions are unpleasant or undesirable states. But, just because they are unpleasurable doesn't mean they are unhelpful. Negative emotions help us do important things in our lives. For example, fear helps us escape from a tiger, anger helps us stand up for our own needs, and sadness helps us take a step back or seek social support. We need negative emotions just as much as we need positive emotions. When it comes to our well-being, we just need to learn how to regulate emotions in effective ways.
Here is a list of some of the most common negative emotions:
Complete List of Emotions
There are a variety of other theories and lists of emotions. We've attempted to synthesize them here to give you a complete alphabetical list of emotions. (You can download this as a printable list below.)
Printable List of Emotions
Want to print this emotion list? Grab the list of emotions PDF or word doc below.
List of Feeling Words & Phrases
In addition to the emotion words above, here are a few more 'feeling' phrases. These included slang and other words that just didn't quite fit into the emotion list above.
'Feeling' words and phrases:
List of Emotional Words
Although we've talked about a bunch of words that can be used to describe our emotions, all words actually have an emotional tone. One study assessed the emotional tone of hundreds of words (Bradley & Lang, 1999) to see how positive or negative people perceived a variety of words to be. The results showed, for example, that words like 'massacre' were rated to be really negative whereas words like 'mother' were rated as really positive. This study highlighted how we experience every word as emotional, even words that are not explicitly emotional.
List of Emotions for Kids
Our complete list of emotions can all be too much for kids. It's likely better to start with a few emotions and go from there. That's why people try to simplify emotion lists for kids and make it easier to learn about new emotions.
We too have made a few tools that can help kids learn about their emotions. First, our emotional coloring book includes downloadable coloring pages of a cute puppy exhibiting various emotional expressions. We also have emotional puppy cards that can be downloaded and pasted on a fridge or walls for kids to learn from.
An Emotion List for Adults
Here are few more emotion words for adults:
Activities for Learning More About Your Emotions
Learn more about your emotions and how to manage them on our emotional skills page. Discover activities for working on your emotions on our emotion activities page. These pages bring together insights on all sorts of topics related to emotions.
Articles for Learning More About Emotions
Want to learn more about some of these emotions. Here are a few related articles: