Envy. Jealousy. We use the words almost interchangeably, but they don’t mean the same thing.
Envy is, I want what you have too. Jealousy is, I deserve what you have instead of you.
So, for example, I went to Winstar casino recently with a friend. She won over $500 on the penny slots! I never have that kind of luck. Now I’m happy for her, but I wouldn’t have minded winning $500 too. That makes me envious. I don’t begrudge her the win, I just want a win of my own.
Jealousy I see more in relationships. Sibling rivalry is jealousy. The older child usually does not want to share the mother’s attention. There is no, she hugs you and she hugs me. There is only, she hugs me alone, you don’t get any.
This is where the language messes us up. If I say I am jealous of something, what I mean is I’m possessive of it. Think of the Old Testatment Bible verse that says “. . . I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God . . .” (Exodus 34:14, if you’re following along at home). Now you don’t have to be a very religious person to get the idea that God is possessive of the Israelites; that’s pretty much the whole point of the Old Testament, that God called these people to be separate from their neighbors by being His chosen people. God doesn’t want what the Israelites have. It’s generally assumed that God is omnipotent, He could easily have for Himself anything that anybody else has. He wants the Israelites loyalty. He is jealous of them.
Not to give a theology lesson, this is more about grammar. And I apologize for the Christian terminology regarding the Bible. It is my background, the way I am most familiar with speaking about these things.
If I’m dating someone and a third party flirts with them, I am jealous. I am possessive, not envious. I don’t want someone to flirt with me, I want that person to be mine. And apparently I’m a little insecure about it.
But if my friend is dating someone, well, I MIGHT be jealous, but probably I am envious. I mean, if I wish my friend spent more time with me and less time with their partner, then I am jealous. But more likely for me, I wish I had a partner too, and that means I’m envious.
You are not jealous of my new job, for example, because you are not possessive of it. You are envious, because you want a better job too.
I hope that clears it up for you, because this is one of my pet peeves.
“You got a new car? I’m so jealous!” No you’re not, you’re envious. You want what I got, rather than thinking you have rights to my car.
It’s like the word “depressed”. It has a clinical definition and a common usage. People say, “I lost one of my favorite socks, I’m so depressed.” No, you’re not; you’re bummed out, sad, frustrated, disappointed, having a bad day, but not depressed. I’m sometimes depressed. I take medicine for it. My life can be going great and I am still sad, that’s depressed. Sorry for the rant there, it’s a touchy subject for me.
The common use of “jealous” is closer to envy. I know that. I speak the daily language. But it’s useful to know the meanings and nuances of words, it’s what makes English the subtle and versatile language that it is.