5 Words For Feeling Happy And Sad At The Same Time (With Examples)

We can be happy when we’re pleased with how something has gone or a certain event in our life. We can be sad when something bad has happened that’s made us feel inadequate or down. However, did you know some words mean you can experience both at the same time?

What Word Is Best To Describe The Feeling Of Being Happy And Sad At The Same Time?

Bittersweet is the best word to describe the feeling of being happy and sad at the same time. There are other choices, which we will cover, but bittersweet works perfectly to cover both emotions (“bitter” showing sadness and “sweet” showing happiness).

What Word Is Best To Describe The Feeling Of Being Happy And Sad At The Same Time?

We’ll cover the words in slightly more detail as we go through the article, but the words you’ll see are:

  • Bittersweet
  • Tragicomic
  • Rueful
  • Ambivalent
  • Emotional


The Cambridge Dictionary can help us with the definition of “bittersweet.” It is used to mean something “containing a mixture of sadness and happiness.”

A person can feel bittersweet for several reasons, but it’s the perfect example of a word that shows the mixed emotions one feels when they’re going through a hard time in their life while also feeling happy about something.

Both happy and sad are contradicting emotions, but that doesn’t mean you’re not able to feel both of them simultaneously. In fact, it’s more of a common feeling than you might realize.

The bittersweet feeling you get when you’re happy about something can arise for a number of reasons, for example:

  • If you won an event by accidentally cheating or tarnishing the competitor’s chances somehow.
  • If you recently lost a loved one but came into some really good news.
  • If something positive happened to you and not your friend, but you really wished it happened to you both.

These are just some of the ways we can see bittersweet emotions in our lives. You’ve more than likely come across it once or twice, and it’s a difficult feeling to explain.


The Cambridge Dictionary gives us a definition of tragicomedy as “a (type of) play or story that is both sad and funny.” This definition is extended to “tragicomic,” which means it relates to this same sensation you get from the play or story.

A situation often seems more tragicomic, rather than it being a direct emotional you feel. However, it’s still possible to experience a tragicomic emotion of some kind.

If you have a tragicomic feeling or sensation, it’s usually because you’re already sad for some reason, but you found something ridiculously funny. The other incident is where something is so sad you can’t help but laugh, and that laughter often helps ease your sadness a little.

It’s not the best synonym for bittersweet, but it’s definitely one of the more closely related words to it that we can use. It’s also a great word to include in your vocabulary should you ever feel the need to say it.

Not many people have heard of tragicomic as a word before, so you could impress a few people.


The Cambridge Dictionary refers to “rueful” as “feeling sorry and wishing that something had not happened.” If you look at the example they provide, it shows someone giving a “rueful laugh,” and this shows that “rueful” is used mostly in a dry and humorous way.

Generally, if we’re writing the word “rueful” in text, it comes before words like “smile” or “laugh.” It’s used in a humorous way to show that we wished something didn’t have to happen the way that it did, but there’s nothing we can do now but laugh at the situation.

Sometimes, that same feeling is applicable to normal life. Say you’re at a funeral for a loved one, and you remember something funny that the two of you did together. Sure, you shouldn’t be laughing at a funeral, but now you’re so overcome with rueful emotion you don’t know what else to do.

That’s generally when we would use “rueful” as an emotion. It shows that we’re sorry or apologetic for an outcome, but we often have to laugh at either the outcome or ourselves before it sends us spiraling into despair.


Here, The Cambridge Dictionary uses a great definition for the word “ambivalent.” It means “having two opposing feelings at the same time, or being uncertain about how you feel.”

While a feeling of ambivalence doesn’t strictly have to apply to happiness and sadness (it could be calmness and anger, for example), it works as a great synonym for bittersweet. In fact, it’s probably the best word on this list besides bittersweet that works as a way to show two contrasting emotions.

On top of that, it’s a great word to include in your vocabulary. Not many people are familiar with a word as powerful as this, and it will show how well you understand your meaning if you get a chance to use it.

A feeling of ambivalence can appear anywhere in life. We typically use it when we’re not able to process our emotions, leading us to a state where we’re not entirely sure which of the two opposing emotions we feel.

It creates this idea of emotional limbo, where we’re both happy and sad. Both of those emotions cancel each other out, almost making us feel empty, or in the case of the Cambridge definition, “uncertain.”


The Cambridge Dictionary teaches us that “emotional” means “having and expressing strong feelings.” While this doesn’t strictly imply that two contradicting emotions are felt at the same time, it works well as an alternative nonetheless.

When somebody is emotional, it’s often too difficult for that person to process their emotions and talk to you about what they’re feeling.

Significant, life-changing events can lead someone to become emotional. Say, for example, you win a lot of money in a competition that will change your life forever. Most people actually cry when they hear this news, which is a common response to sadness.

It’s this exact situation that leads the word emotional to being a really good synonym for bittersweet. When you’re so overcome with emotion, you don’t know whether to laugh or cry. If you hear bad news, you might laugh out loud; if you hear great news, you might cry happy tears. Either way, you’re so emotional that you don’t know what your body or brain is telling you!

All of the above words are an excellent way of saying you feel both happy and sad at the same time. It’s not a feeling you’ll come by often, but when you do, it’s helpful to have these words in your arsenal ready to use.

It also helps to expand your ability to write really impressive stories. If you’re able to have a strong handle on emotions in a novel, then people will be amazed at your writing skills and descriptive abilities.

Examples Of When You Can Feel Happy And Sad At The Same Time

While it’s great to know all of the words you can use to explain this feeling, that’s not enough. It’ll help if you also know when situations might occur that might lead you to feel bittersweet or ambivalent.


Graduating is a huge event in any student’s life. It’s such a happy moment for most people because it means they’re turning over to the next page of their life and exploring new options.

However, graduation is often sad because it means saying goodbye to old friends and knowing that you most likely won’t see them again.

Changing Jobs

Just like graduation, changing a job in life is often seen as a huge milestone. If you’ve made the decision to further your career, then that will have a massive impact on your life and change you for the better. Usually, it’s a happy day.

However, it can be difficult to let go of the past. It can also be hard to say goodbye to colleagues, especially those that you consider friends. That’s what leads to these bittersweet moments in life.

Having A Baby

Having a baby is by far one of the most exciting and happy moments in any parent’s life. It’s the time to take on new responsibilities and start up a family with the people that you love.

However, having a baby also leads new parents to ask sad questions like whether they’re good enough to be a good parent or whether they’re right for the baby. This emotional back and forth leads to some serious bittersweet sensations.

Beating A Friend (Sporting Event)

Beating a friend in a competition is a great way to show that you’ve earned your spot in the podium position. However, we often want to encourage our friends to be the best versions of themselves and need to push each other to get there.

While beating a friend can be exciting and lead to happiness; you may also take away their own pride, which is an unhappy sensation at the same time. There’s a very fine balance between these things.

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10 Better Ways To Say “Happy” In English

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