Nauseous ≠ Nauseated

Being sick is an experience everyone can understand. On the other hand, not everyone gets the difference between nauseous and nauseated. You probably can’t avoid getting sick forever, but you can do something about the nauseous-nauseated confusion. Let’s get started with a definition of nausea!

Nausea is a noun that refers to a feeling of sickness in your stomach. Usually, a person experiencing nausea doesn’t want to eat and may feel like vomiting. The term also refers to a feeling of extreme disgust toward something or someone. In Latin, nausea meant “seasickness.” Today we use the word to describe spells of stomach sickness caused by all kinds of factors.

Reading in the car causes nausea.

I had a brief feeling of nausea before I climbed onto the stage, but once I started my presentation the sensation subsided.

I can’t read the daily newspaper without nausea. There’s always some horrible crime that sickens me.

Nauseous vs. Nauseated

Picking an adjective to describe feelings of nausea is where most people have trouble. Traditionally, the adjective “nauseous” meant “sickening” or “something that causes nausea.”

When Heather was pregnant with her second daughter, the smell of boiled eggs was a nauseous odor.

When people wanted to describe feeling queasy or sick to the stomach, they used “nauseated.”

Heather was nauseated by the smell of boiled eggs.

Today, however, “nauseous” is widely used instead of “nauseated” to mean “queasy” or “sick to the stomach.” Most dictionaries accept this usage, and many style guides grudgingly acknowledge that it’s too common to be called an “error” anymore, but it’s still a good idea to preserve the distinction in your writing. Observant readers will appreciate it.

Figuratively Nauseated

The base word of nauseated is the verb nauseate. To nauseate means “to sicken or to affect with nausea.” It’s also associated with feelings of loathing. It means “to cause to feel extreme disgust.” Below are some examples of the figurative senses of nauseate.

To cause anxiety or reluctance:

The thought of flying on a plane nauseated Bill.

The thought of riding a horse nauseates Carol.

To cause revulsion or extreme disgust:

Cockroaches nauseate Kimberly so much that she can’t even look at a picture of one.

There are many causes of stomach sickness, and many forms of nausea to describe them. If you’d like to learn more, you can always investigate the adjective nauseating and the adverb nauseatingly. Actually, that might be a fun project to save for the next time illness confines you to your bed. At least something good will come out of being sick!