9 Words for Something That Is Both Good and Bad

So, you want a word that describes something both good and bad. Well, you’ve come to the right place.

This article has gathered the best synonyms for something good and bad. Some of the best alternatives are:

  • Double-edged
  • Contradictory
  • Bittersweet
  • Ambivalent
  • Catch-22
  • Cuts both ways
  • Mixed blessing
  • Equivocal
  • Polar

You should read on to learn more about these synonyms. We’ve explained each in more detail to help you determine which might be most appropriate for your writing.

1. Double-Edged

“Double-edged” is a great alternative that shows something is either good or bad. It is a metaphor relating to a blade, showing that a sword can do good and bad things simultaneously.

The idea is that you might benefit from agreeing to something. However, you may also have to sacrifice something to achieve it. Therefore, something good will become bad based on what you have to give up.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “double-edged” as “capable of being taken in two ways.”

Take a look through the following examples to help you with it:

  • You’ve really given me a double-edged sword to work with. I don’t want to let people down, but it will be a dividing issue.
  • It’s a double-edged problem with no easy outcome. Some of you are going to love it, while others will hate it.

2. Contradictory

“Contradictory” is a good choice to show that something is good and bad. It indicates that something goes against itself. So, you can have positive and negative outcomes occurring at the same time.

Sometimes, you can’t avoid contradictions in life. You might be backed into a corner and have to choose the lesser of two evils, even if the choices are both contradictory and offer good and bad outcomes.

The definition of “contradictory,” according to The Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is “involving, causing, or constituting a contradiction.”

You may want to refer to the following examples to see how it works:

  • Your plan is contradictory, and I’m not okay with that. There are too many variables at work.
  • It’s contradictory because it can go two ways. There are good and bad outcomes for all of us.

3. Bittersweet

“Bittersweet” is a slightly more specific alternative. It shows that something is happy and sad at the same time.

You can say “bittersweet” when you know that you’ll experience positive and negative emotions. “Bitter” refers to sadness, while “sweet” refers to happiness.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “bittersweet” as “being at once bitter and sweet.”

Here are some examples to help you with it:

  • It’s a bittersweet symphony, really. Life always seems to throw you a curveball when you least expect it.
  • I hate how bittersweet this has to be. Why can’t there be one simple solution that’s good for everyone?

4. Ambivalent

“Ambivalent” is a great alternative to show that something contradicts itself. You can use it for good and bad outcomes that tend to come out of the same choice.

It suggests that you cannot win by choosing something. Even if you think it is the best outcome, things will still go wrong, making ambivalent choices good and bad.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “ambivalent” as “having or showing simultaneous and contradictory attitudes or feelings toward something or someone.”

You might want to check the examples below to see how to use it:

  • Something feels ambivalent about this. I’m still trying to determine the best course of action.
  • It’s all too ambivalent for me. I don’t understand why we’re in this situation.

5. Catch-22

A “catch-22” is an idiomatic expression showing that something has the opposite effect on another thing. For instance, you might choose a good option knowing that it will result in bad consequences.

The definition of “catch-22,” according to The Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is “a measure or policy whose effect is the opposite of what was intended.”

Here are a few examples to help you with it:

  • I didn’t want to be stuck in this catch-22, but it appears I have no choice now.
  • They’re talking about it as if it’s only good. I can see the bad outcomes, too. That’s a catch-22 if ever I saw one.

6. Cuts Both Ways

“Cuts both ways” is a great choice that plays into the sword metaphor. You can say “cuts” here to show that you will get a good cut and a bad cut.

The implication is that things aren’t always black and white. Sometimes, you have to make sacrifices for the greater good to achieve a desirable result for the majority.

Perhaps these examples will help you understand it:

  • I can tell it cuts both ways, and I’m not sure how to handle that right now. I’m too fragile.
  • You always manage to cut both ways with your problems. If I help you, I hinder them. That’s good for you but bad for everyone else!

7. Mixed Blessing

“Mixed blessing” is a great alternative to use here. It shows that something is good and bad, and you can’t prevent the outcome regardless of what it is.

For instance, you might offer someone a mixed blessing by promising them a place to live. However, if they have to live with someone they don’t get along with when they accept your offer, it will end up being a “mixed blessing” with good and bad intentions.

You can check the following examples to see how to use it:

  • I don’t want to give you any mixed blessings here. I’m worried that things might get taken out of context.
  • It’s a mixed blessing, so I have to be smart about what I say next.

8. Equivocal

“Equivocal” is a good choice for a way to show something as good and bad. It implies that something has multiple interpretations. You can choose whether you want to see something as good or bad based on the situation.

The definition of “equivocal,” according to The Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is “subject to two or more interpretations and usually used to mislead or confuse.”

You can refer to the following examples to help you understand it:

  • It’s too equivocal, so it’s impossible to devise a solution! We have to change something.
  • I don’t enjoy equivocal conundrums like this. It’s good and bad, and it’s going to affect so many people differently.

9. Polar

“Polar” is a great term to show that something opposes itself. For instance, a “polar reaction” is a reaction that is both positive and negative.

You can use it to show that good and bad things can happen at the same time. Often, there is no way to stop negative outcomes from coming out of positive choices.

The definition of “polar,” according to The Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is “diametrically opposite.”

Here are some examples to help you understand it:

  • I can’t deal with this polar situation right now. It’s too much for my emotions to take.
  • It’s very polar, so it will either go really well or really poorly. There’s certainly no in-between.