Envy is akin to admiration, and it is the admiration that the rich and powerful excite which secures the perpetuation of aristocracies.~ Henry George
If a poor person envies a rich person, he is no better than the rich person. ~ Leo Tolstoy
The rebel ... does not merely claim some good that he does not possess or of which he was deprived. His aim is to claim recognition for something which he has and which has already been recognized by him, in almost every case, as more important than anything of which he could be envious. ~ Albert Camus

Envy is an emotion that "occurs when a person lacks another's superior quality, achievement, or possession and either desires it or wishes that the other lacked it".  Envy is one of the seven deadly sins.  It is not to be confused with jealousy.


  • It is in the character of very few men to honor without envy a friend who has prospered.


  • Every other sin hath some pleasure annexed to it, or will admit of an excuse; envy alone wants both. Other sins last but for awhile; the gut may be satisfied, anger remits, hatred hath an end, envy never ceaseth.
    • Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy, Part I, Section 2, member 3, subsection 7, Envy, Malice, Hatred, Causes (1621).
  • A man that hath no virtue in himself, ever envieth virtue in others. For men's minds, will either feed upon their own good, or upon others' evil; and who wanteth the one, will prey upon the other; and whoso is out of hope, to attain to another's virtue, will seek to come at even hand, by depressing another's fortune.
  • Metaphors and Similes are the beginning of the democratic system of envy.
  • The eradiction of envy: gratitude.


  • The rebel ... does not merely claim some good that he does not possess or of which he was deprived. His aim is to claim recognition for something which he has and which has already been recognized by him, in almost every case, as more important than anything of which he could be envious.
  • This only grant me, that my means may lie
    Too low for envy, for contempt too high.


  • The laws would not prevent each man from living according to his inclination, unless individuals harmed each other; for envy creates the beginning of strife.
    • Democritus, translation by Kathleen Freeman, Ancilla to the Pre-Socratic Philosophers: A Complete Translation of the Fragments in Diels, Fragmente der Vorsokratiker, Harvard University Press, 1948; republished by Forgotten Books, 2008, ISBN 1606802569 (full text online at GoogleBooks).


  • You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
  • When he knows that God has forbidden his neighbor's wife to him, then she is more elevated in his eyes than the princess in the eyes of the peasant. And so he is satisfied with his portion and does not allow his heart to covet and desire something that is not his, for he knows that God does not wish to give it to him; he cannot take it by force or by his thoughts or schemes. He has faith in his Creator, that He will provide for him and do what is good in His eyes.
  • There is a time in every man's education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better for worse as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but though his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till.


  • I am firmly convinced, as I have already said, that to effect any great social improvement, it is sympathy rather than self-interest, the sense of duty rather than the desire for self-advancement, that must be appealed to. Envy is akin to admiration, and it is the admiration that the rich and powerful excite which secures the perpetuation of aristocracies.
    • Henry George, Social Problems, Chapter 21: Conclusion (1883).


  • However human, envy is certainly not one of the sources of discontent that a free society can eliminate. It is probably one of the essential conditions for the preservation of such a society that we do not countenance envy, not sanction its demands by camouflaging it as social justice, but treat it, in the words of John Stuart Mill, as "the most anti-social and evil of all passions.
  • Envy among other ingredients has a mixture of the love of justice in it. We are more angry at undeserved than at deserved good-fortune.
  • The player envies only the player, the poet envies only the poet.
  • The foregoing commands implicitly forbid all desire of doing that which will be an injury to our neighbour; this forbids all inordinate desire of having that which will be a gratification to ourselves. "O that such a man’s house were mine! Such a man’s wife mine! Such a man’s estate mine!’’ This is certainly the language of discontent at our own lot, and envy at our neighbour’s; and these are the sins principally forbidden here. St. Paul, when the grace of God caused the scales to fall from his eyes, perceived that this law, Thou shalt not covet, forbade all those irregular appetites and desires which are the first-born of the corrupt nature, the first risings of the sin that dwelleth in us, and the beginnings of all the sin that is committed by us: this is that lust which, he says, he had not known the evil of, if this commandment, when it came to his conscience in the power of it, had not shown it to him, Rom. 7:7.
  • It is better to be envied than pitied.
    • Variant: How much better a thing it is to be envied than to be pitied.
    • Herodotus, The Histories, Book 3, Chapter 52; also in Thalia.
  • I have no respect for the passion of equality, which seems to me merely idealizing envy — I don't disparage envy but I don't accept it as legitimately my master.
    • Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., Holmes-Laski Letters: The Correspondence of Mr. Justice Holmes and Harold J. Laski, 1916 - 1935 (1953), Volume 2, p. 942.


  • In a consumer society there are inevitably two kinds of slaves: the prisoners of addiction and the prisoners of envy.


  • Resentment kills a fool, and envy slays the simple.


  • In a crunch a man's reputation never counts for as much as it ought to. Most people are good-hearted and willing to give a man the benefit of the doubt, but the poisonous few are eager to see others brought down, ruined. … Envy, Bob. Envy eats them alive. If you had money, they'd envy you that. But since you don't, they envy you for having such a good, bright, loving daughter. They envy you for just being a happy man. They envy you for not envying them. One of the greatest sorrows of human existence is that some people aren't happy merely to be alive but find their happiness only in the misery of others.


  • Invidiam. tamquam ignem, summa petere.
    • Envy like fire always makes for the highest points.
    • Livy, Annales (Histories), Book VIII, Section 31 (sometimes poetically translated as "Envy, like fire, soars upward").
  • Merely pointing to the fact that some people have a lot more than others is less compelling as a critique; it invites the response “So what? Those who have more aren’t hurting anybody; you’re just appealing to envy.” By contrast, being able to show that those who enjoy a higher socioeconomic status have to a considerable extent achieved and maintained that status by forcibly expropriating and oppressing the less affluent provides for a far more effective indictment.
    • Roderick Long, "Inequality and Nozickian Historical Justice," Bleeding Heart Libertarians: Free Markets and Social Justice, March 16, 2011
  • In whatever way such things happen, we must know that God does not wish that you deprive your neighbor of anything that belongs to him so that he suffer the loss and you gratify your avarice with it, even if you could keep it honorably before the world; for it is a secret and insidious imposition practised under the hat, as we say, that it may not be observed. For although you go your way as if you had done no one any wrong, you have nevertheless injured your neighbor; and if it is not called stealing and cheating, yet it is called coveting your neighbor's property, that is, aiming at possession of it, enticing it away from him without his will, and being unwilling to see him enjoy what God has granted him.
    • Martin Luther, "The Large Catechism", Translated by F. Bente and W.H.T. Dau Published in: Triglot Concordia: The Symbolical Books of the Ev. Lutheran Church (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921) pp. 565-773


  • Desire leads to coveting, and coveting leads to stealing. For if the owner (of the coveted object) does not wish to sell, even though he is offered a good price and is entreated to accept, the person (who covets the object) will come to steal it, as it is written (Mikha 2:2) [Micah 2:2], 'They covet fields and (then) steal them.' And if the owner approaches him with a view to reclaiming his money or preventing the theft, then he will come to murder. Go and learn from the example of Achav [Ahab] and Navot [Naboth].


  • Then sought out Envy in her dark abode,
Defil'd with ropy gore and clots of blood:
Shut from the winds, and from the wholesome skies,
In a deep vale the gloomy dungeon lies,
Dismal and cold, where not a beam of light
Invades the winter, or disturbs the night.
She never smiles but when the wretched weep,
Nor lulls her malice with a moment's sleep,
Restless in spite: while watchful to destroy,
She pines and sickens at another's joy;
Foe to her self, distressing and distrest,
She bears her own tormentor in her breast.


  • It is true, indeed, of all just and good men, that they are praised more after they have left the world than before, since envy does not long survive them, and some even see it die before them
  • Envy has been, is, and shall be, the destruction of many. What is there, that Envy hath not defamed, or Malice left undefiled? Truly, no good thing.
    • Pythagoras, as translated in The Sayings of the Wise: Or, Food for Thought: A Book of Moral Wisdom, Gathered from the Ancient Philosophers (1555) by William Baldwin [1908 edition].


  • Probably the greatest harm done by vast wealth is the harm that we of moderate means do ourselves when we let the vices of envy and hatred enter deep into our own natures.
    • Theodore Roosevelt, speech at Providence, Rhode Island (August 23, 1902), Presidential Addresses and State Papers (1910), p. 103.


  • O! beware, my lord, of jealousy;
    It is the green-ey'd monster which doth mock
    The meat it feeds on.
  • Envy thou not the oppressor, and choose none of his ways.
  • Hazzen unde nîden
    daz muoz der biderbe lîden.
    der man der werdet al die vrist,
    die wîle und er geniten ist.
    • Translation: A worthy man is bound to suffer malice and envy: a man grows in worth so long as he is envied.
    • Gottfried von Strassburg, Tristan, Line 8395 (c. 1160).


  • Base Envy withers at another's joy,
    And hates that excellence it cannot reach.
  • Égalité is an expression of envy. It means, in the real heart of every Republican, "No one shall be better off than I am;" and while this is preferred to good government, good government is impossible.
    • Variant: Equality is a slogan based on envy. It signifies in the heart of every republican: "Nobody is going to occupy a place higher than I."
    • Alexis de Tocqueville, Conversation with Nassau William Senior p. 94 (May 22, 1850).
  • If a poor person envies a rich person, he is no better than the rich person.
    • Leo Tolstoy, Path of Life, M. Cote, trans. (2002), p. 89.
  • I'll tell you a secret, something they don't teach you in your temple. The Gods envy us. They envy us because we're mortal, because any moment might be our last. Everything is more beautiful because we're doomed. You will never be lovelier than you are now, and we will never be here again.
    • Troy, spoken by Achilles to Briseis (2004).


  • Envy wounds with false accusations, that is with detraction, a thing which scares virtue.

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations

Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 226-27.
  • With that malignant envy which turns pale,
    And sickens, even if a friend prevail.
  • Rabiem livoris acerbi
    Nulla potest placare quies.
    • Nothing can allay the rage of biting envy.
    • Claudianus, De Raptu Proserpinæ, III. 290.
  • Envy's a sharper spur than pay:
    No author ever spar'd a brother.
    • John Gay, Fables (1727), Part I, Fable 10.
  • Fools may our scorn, not envy, raise.
    For envy is a kind of praise.
  • Envy not greatness: for thou mak'st thereby
    Thyself the worse, and so the distance greater.
  • The artist envies what the artist gains,
    The bard the rival bard's successful strains.
    • Hesiod, Works and Days, Book I, line 43.
  • Invidus alterius marescit rebus opimis;
    Invidia Siculi non invenere tyranni
    Majus tormentum.
    • The envious pine at others' success; no greater punishment than envy was devised by Sicilian tyrants.
    • Horace, Epistles, I. 2. 57.
  • Ego si risi quod ineptus
    Pastillos Rufillus olet, Gargonius hircum, lividus et mordax videar?
    • If I smile at the strong perfumes of the silly Rufillus must I be regarded as envious and ill-natured?
    • Horace, Satires, I. 4. 91.
  • Envy! eldest-born of hell!
    • Charles Jennens of Gopsall. Also ascribed to Newburgh Hamilton. Chorus of Handel's Oratorio, Saul.
  • A proximis quisque minime anteiri vult.
    • No man likes to be surpassed by those of his own level.
    • Livy, Annales, XXXVIII. 49.
  • Les envieux mourront, mais non jamais l'envie.
    • The envious will die, but envy never.
    • Molière, Tartuffe (1664), V, 3.
  • Pascitur in vivis livor; post fata quiescit.
    • Envy feeds on the living. It ceases when they are dead.
    • Ovid, Amorum (16 BC), I, 15, 39.
  • Ingenium magni detractat livor Homeri.
    • Envy depreciates the genius of the great Homer.
    • Ovid, Remedia Amoris, CCCLXV.
  • Summa petit livor: perflant altissima venti.
    • Envy assails the noblest: the winds howl around the highest peaks.
    • Ovid, Remedia Amoris, CCCLXIX.
  • Envy, to which th' ignoble mind's a slave,
    Is emulation in the learn'd or brave.
  • L'invidia, figliuol mio, se stessa macera,
    E si dilegua come agnel per fascino.
    • Envy, my son, wears herself away, and droops like a lamb under the influence of the evil eye.
    • Jacopo Sannazaro, Ecloga Octava.
  • It is the practice of the multitude to bark at eminent men, as little dogs do at strangers.
  • In seeking tales and informations
    Against this man, whose honesty the devil
    And his disciples only envy at,
    Ye blew the fire that burns ye.
  • Such men as he be never at heart's ease
    Whiles they behold a greater than themselves:
    And therefore are they very dangerous.
  • Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,
    Who is already sick and pale with grief,
    That thou her maid art far more fair than she:
    Be not her maid, since she is envious.
  • We make ourselves fools, to disport ourselves;

    And spend our flatteries, to drink those men
    Upon whose age we void it up again,
    With poisonous spite and envy.
  • The general's disdain'd
    By him one step below; he by the next;
    That next by him beneath; so every step,
    Exampled by the first pace that is sick
    Of his superior, grows to an envious fever
    Of pale and bloodless emulation.

Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895)

Quotes reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895).

  • The covetous man is like a camel with a great hunch on his back; heaven's gate must be made higher and broader, or he will hardly get in.
  • What a wretched and apostate state is this! To be offended with excellence, and to hate a man because we approve him! The condition of the envious man is the most emphatically miserable; he is not only incapable of rejoicing in another's merit or success, but lives in a world wherein all mankind are in a plot against his quiet, studying their own happiness and advantage.
  • Of covetousness, we may truly say that it makes' both the Alpha and Omega in the devil's alphabet, and that it is the first vice in corrupt nature which moves, and the last which dies.
  • The covetous person lives as if the world were made altogether for him, and not he for the world.
  • I could have wished that the reputations of many brave men were not to be imperilled in the mouth of a single individual, to stand or fall according as he spoke well or ill. For it is hard to speak properly upon a subject where it is even difficult to convince your hearers that you are speaking the truth. On the one hand, the friend who is familiar with every fact of the story may think that some point has not been set forth with that fullness which he wishes and knows it to deserve; on the other, he who is a stranger to the matter may be led by envy to suspect exaggeration if he hears anything above his own nature. For men can endure to hear others praised only so long as they can severally persuade themselves of their own ability to equal the actions recounted: when this point is passed, envy comes in and with it incredulity.
  • The covetous man heaps up riches, not to enjoy them, but to have them.
  • If we did but know how little some enjoy of the great things that they possess, there would not be much envy in the world.

See also

AltruismAsceticismBeneficenceBenevolenceBraveryCarefulnessCharityCheerfulnessCleanlinessCommon senseCompassionConstancyCourageDignityDiligenceDiscretionEarnestnessFaithFidelityForethoughtForgivenessFriendshipFrugalityGentlenessGoodnessGraceGratitudeHolinessHonestyHonorHopeHospitalityHumanityHumilityIntegrityIntelligenceJusticeKindnessLoveLoyaltyMercyModerationModestyOptimismPatiencePhilanthropyPietyPrudencePunctualityPovertyPuritySelf-controlSimplicitySinceritySobrietySympathyTemperanceTolerance

AggressionAngerApathyArroganceBigotryContemptCowardiceCrueltyDishonestyDrunkennessEgotismEnvyEvil speakingGluttonyGreedHatredHypocrisyIdlenessIgnoranceImpatienceImpenitenceIngratitudeInhumanityIntemperanceJealousyLazinessLustMaliceNeglectObstinacyPhilistinismPrejudicePretensionPrideRecklessnessSelf-righteousnessSelfishnessSuperficialityTryphéUnkindnessUsuryVanityWorldliness

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