Grammar Chaos: Nauseated and Nauseous

Posted on Jan 03, 2019

Ever felt woozy? Felt like vomiting? Except you don’t know the right word for it? The term you’re looking for is nauseated. No, you’re not seeing it wrong. The word for when you’re feeling dizzy or sick is nauseated, not nauseous.

Nauseous vs nauseated

If you’re scratching your head now, embarrassed for the dozens of times you’ve misused the word, don’t fret! Nauseous and nauseating have been interchanged by many people. Even the best speakers of the English language are prone to the pitfalls of these terms.

Let’s pick these two apart and get to the root of each word. Be warned: the ride may make you, err, nauseated.

Before we get right ahead, we have to understand first that one of the main reasons we confuse these two words is the fact that they have the same root word, which is nausea. Nausea is sickness at the stomach, especially when accompanied by a loathing for food and an involuntary impulse to vomit. Nausea may also be a symptom.

Let’s begin with the one we use more often: nauseous. Nauseous is an adjective that means something that causes nausea, or a sickening feeling. Encountering something nauseous will make you experience nausea. Some examples of nauseous experiences are roller coasters with twists and turns, gory horror films, or horrible smells.

  1. The loop-the-loop is the most nauseous part of the ride.
  2. Art could barely handle the nauseous smell of the farm.
  3. That gore film had so many nauseous scenes.

Now let’s move on to nauseated. Nauseated is actually a verb, which means to experience or feel nausea. Encountering any of the experiences mentioned previously could make you feel nauseated.

  1. I became nauseated after trying the fermented beans.
  2. The murder documentary made Jerry feel nauseated.
  3. In case your mom gets nauseated, tell her to drink fluids and to stay somewhere cool.

If after reading this article you still have a tendency to interchange the two, it’s not a big deal, at least in conversational English. People still tend to interchange these terms, simply because it is what’s used more popularly. In the end, this is how language evolves. There may come a time when style guides and dictionaries adapt to popular usage, but now is not that time.

Since that has not happened yet, when using these words formally, such as on paper, it’s best to stick to the rules. Unless you want an editor to tell you that your word usage makes them feel nauseated.


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