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From Middle English joye, a borrowing from Old French joie, from Late Latin gaudia, neuter plural (mistaken as feminine singular) of Latin gaudium (joy), from gaudēre (to be glad, rejoice). Displaced native Middle English wunne (from Old English wynn), Middle English hight, hught (joy, hope) (from Old English hyht), Middle English rot, root (joy, delight) (from Old English rōt), Middle English gleo (joy, glee) (from Old English glēow, glīw (glee)), while partially replacing Middle English blisse (joy, bliss) (from Old English blisse, blīþs).



joy (countable and uncountable, plural joys)

  1. A feeling of extreme happiness or cheerfulness, especially related to the acquisition or expectation of something good.
    a child's joy on Christmas morning
    • 1918, W. B. Maxwell, chapter 10, in The Mirror and the Lamp:
      It was a joy to snatch some brief respite, and find himself in the rectory drawing–room. Listening here was as pleasant as talking; just to watch was pleasant. The young priests who lived here wore cassocks and birettas; their faces were fine and mild, yet really strong, like the rector's face; and in their intercourse with him and his wife they seemed to be brothers.
    They will be a source of strength and joy in your life.
  2. Anything that causes such a feeling.
    the joys and demands of parenthood
    • Bible, 1 Thess. ii. 20
      Ye are our glory and joy.
    • Keats
      A thing of beauty is a joy forever.
  3. Luck or success; a positive outcome.
    • Colin Owen, Colin's Shorts (volume 2, page 65)
      Grant had no joy with taking a nap, so he began to systematically feel if everything was working: fingers and toes, etc.
    • 2012, Robert Stansbridge, Bia's Wedding (page 4)
      'Rob? It's Gary. Are you having any joy with this trip to Bali?' 'No joy at all, mate. I reckon Bali's out for the foreseeable future. []
  4. (obsolete) The sign or exhibition of joy; gaiety; merriment; festivity.
    • Spenser
      Such joy made Una, when her knight she found.
    • Dryden
      The roofs with joy resound.


Derived terms[edit]



joy (third-person singular simple present joys, present participle joying, simple past and past participle joyed)

  1. (intransitive) To feel joy, to rejoice.
    • 1485, Sir Thomas Malory, chapter ix, in Le Morte Darthur, book XVII:
      for oftymes or this oure lord shewed hym vnto good men and vnto good knyghtes in lykenes of an herte But I suppose from hens forth ye shalle see no more / and thenne they Ioyed moche / and dwelled ther alle that day / And vpon the morowe whan they had herde masse / they departed and commaunded the good man to god
    • 1885, Sir Richard Burton, The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night, Night 18:
      I swore readily enough to this and he joyed with exceeding joy and embraced me round the neck while love for him possessed my whole heart.
    • Sir Walter Scott
      I joy to see you wear around your neck the holy relic I bestowed on you; — but what Moorish charmlet is that you wear beside it?
  2. (transitive, archaic) To enjoy.
    • 1596, Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, IV.i.2:
      For from the time that Scudamour her bought, / In perilous fight, she neuer ioyed day [].
    • Milton
      Who might have lived and joyed immortal bliss.
  3. (transitive, obsolete) To give joy to; to congratulate.
    • Dryden
      Joy us of our conquest.
    • Prior
      To joy the friend, or grapple with the foe.
  4. (transitive, obsolete) To gladden; to make joyful; to exhilarate.
    • Shakespeare
      Neither pleasure's art can joy my spirits.


Most common English words before 1923 in Project Gutenberg: months · grew · boys · #679: joy · green · mouth · generally