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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Etymology of Jealousy

My curiosity about the seven deadly sins led to me a Wikipedia page dedicated to them. Despite my intimate knowledge of Catholicism (I went through the conversion process more than a decade ago), I still thought jealousy was on the list.

It isn't. 

Envy is listed on several variations of the list, but jealousy is not. The word envy comes from late thirteenth century French phrases that mean "to cast an evil eye upon." The etymology of jealousy only reveals that it is rooted in zeal, fervor, and devotion.

Jealousy is a bit of a new issue for me (I think so, at least. My friends who know me well might have a very different take on it, and they are welcome to speak up in comments). I get jealous of the people and activities that claim time with my children (they are only with me 26 weeks out of the year, so that seems understandable, but it's jealousy just the same). My spouse and I met when we were in our thirties (though our mutual histories go back to when we were teenagers), and sometimes I find myself jealous of old friendships. Some days I really wrestle with jealousy, and others I don't give it another thought. 

"Envy" comes from words that mean "casting an evil eye," and envy is one of the traditional cardinal sins. The dictionary says envy is a feeling of discontent with someone else's advantages. Our contemporary understanding of envy is wanting what someone else has, which differs from covetousness only in that it puts another person as the object instead of the actual desire as the object. 

Jealousy comes from our own negative thoughts and insecurities. I bet even the most secure person has to deal with jealousy from time to time. We all face some form of lust, greed, gluttony, sloth, wrath, envy, or pride in our lives. These behaviors impact all our relationships.

How do the "deadly sins" work together? If you had the power to eliminate just ONE of them from existence, which would you choose? Would eradicating one have a domino effect and lead to the destruction of the others?


I was asked to take the Hartman Value Profile by a potential employer this week. Putting the statements in order from most true for me to least true for me was eye-opening. You should take a look at the HVP and think about how you would rank the statements. 


  1. Wow! That's an odd test. I'd never heard of it. Thanks for the link. We took the MMPI to become therapeutic foster parents. That was an interesting test as well.
    Envy...I would think eliminating greed could reduce envy because you wouldn't want? If you don't want, then you don't have envy. Eventually, though, I would turn into a sloth. Yes. This is my expert opinion.

  2. Pride. I have no love for competition or an inflated sense of self, even when it's my own inflated sense of self or competition with myself. I'd much rather just exist peacefully.

  3. Egg, I took the MMPI long ago as part of a battery of tests. It made me paranoid, which I guess was the point at the time! I love your "expert" opinion. I do see how ending greed could lead to more sloth, since some people would not see the point of working hard (since we are all accustomed to working hard for reward, instead of work being its own reward). Xn, eliminating pride would certainly help curb greed and wrath. Most of our pride seems to be tied up in things we do and not things we are.

    Thanks for commenting.