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Emotional Word Matrix


Carefully chosen words have the power to bring a person or story to life and impact the readers' impression. If you’re like most people, though, you often use the same words when writing about emotions. Here are some commonly used words to describe emotions and feelings as well as many alternatives that may help your readers better understand what you're trying to convey.


High: bewildered, baffled, perplexed, disoriented, stunned, amazed, astonished, flabbergasted

Moderate: doubtful, puzzled, surprised, perplexed, befuddled, distracted, disorganized

Low: misled, undecided, uncertain, lost, dazed, unsure, indecisive


High: terrified, overwhelmed, panicked, petrified, alarmed, fearful

Moderate: worried, tense, dread, shaken, anxious, afraid, panicky, panicked

Low: startled, surprised, uneasy, edgy, apprehensive, hesitant, uncomfortable


High: furious, raging, irate, hateful, incensed, hostile, outraged, indignant, exasperated

Moderate: aggravated, irritated, irked, upset, annoyed, offended, sulky, ticked off, fuming, sullen, provoked

Low: perturbed, hassled, bothered, fuss, fret, displeased, peeved


High: grieved, crushed, gloomy, hopeless, heartbroken, devastated, despairing, distraught, heavyhearted, miserable

Moderate: dejected, dismayed, hurt, hurting, disillusioned, downcast, forlorn, glum, cheerless, melancholy

Low: down, disappointed, blue, discouraged, low, somber, sorry, unhappy


High: ashamed, exhausted, powerless, anemic, decrepit, frail, useless, depleted

Moderate: vulnerable, inept, inadequate, worn out, helpless, spent, run down, sluggish, fragile

Low: tired, weary, limp, soft, feeble, ineffective


High: excited, thrilled, ecstatic, elated, intoxicated, captivated, euphoric, joyous, jubilant, overjoyed

Moderate: cheerful, upbeat, optimistic, enthusiastic, lively, gleeful, joyful, peppy, delighted, tickled, hopeful

Low: merry, light, jolly, up, glad, pleased, blissful, chipper, content, perky, playful


High: powerful, potent, fearless, forceful, mighty, emphatically, active, vigorous, unyielding

Moderate: confident, tough, robust, brave, sound, daring, hardy, hefty

Low: capable, adequate, firm, assured, steady, stable, solid

“Utter Articulation: Instructional Potential of Word Matrices”
Kris, Gottlieb, Cami Whitehead, and David Clarke
Used with permission by the Sam Houston State University Writing Center, 3/2008

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