The Difference
Between Happiness And Joy

So, what's the consensus on joy vs happiness?

I was asked the other day to explain the difference between happiness and joy. And when I thought about it for a while I realised I wasn't sure I even knew myself what the exact difference is.

So I recently did a search at online dictionaries to see what they have to say about joy versus happiness. I was looking for a clear distinction between the two. Well, the results were actually quite varied.

And while I was at it, I also did some searches on the word bliss. So here is what I found.


I've devoted a whole page to trying to pin down a definition of happiness . And it seems there is not one standard definition.

Happiness Blueprint available free when you subscribe to the free Happiness Hub e-zineA number of the dictionary definitions seem to link happiness to good fortune and luck. But the overall theme seems to descibe a state of feeling happy, delighted or contented about something.

There also seems to be some consensus regarding the difference between happiness and joy in terms of duration. Happiness seems to be considered as being more of a temporary nature.

Happy girl jumping for joy - courtesy

It seems too that the word happiness is often associated with an outward expression of the inner feeling. In other words, someone who is happy displays their happiness through their conduct - through a smile or a delighted facial expression, by what they say, or how they jump up and down, like when they've won a prize or passed their final exams.

One can get carried away trying to spell out precisely the difference between happiness and joy - as if it is so important(?). Science and medicine would probably define happiness in terms of hormones and brain chemistry.

So, here's my own short-and-sweet definition of happiness:
Happiness is the experience of feeling good.


Site Build It! There seem to be a few different interpretations of what the word joy means too. Some suggest that it indicates a greater degree of 'happiness' - the next notch up from happiness. Yet others describe joy as being extreme happiness, keen pleasure, ecstasy.

Other sources say that joy comes from within while happiness is triggered by external events. And it is also often indicated that there is a more religious or spiritual flavour to the word joy than there is with happiness. It's as if happiness is more 'wordly' while joy is seen to be more sacred in nature.


As far as the word 'bliss' is concerned, there seems to be more agreement amongst the various sources I searched. It's generally agreed that bliss is the ultimate or highest expression of both happiness and joy. defines joy as "supreme happiness; utter joy or contentment". And it adds the notion of heavenly joy.

How I would summarise joy versus happiness versus bliss

Happiness: The experience of feeling good - experienced inside and often expressed outwards, and noticeable by others. It can bubble up unexpectedly from within, or it can be triggered within by some external situation, event of object.

Joy: The experience 'delightful happiness', not necessarily triggered by external stimuli, and perhaps less outwardly expressive that the way in which happiness is often displayed.

Bliss: The experience of intense joy, usually with a feeling of great love in the heart region, and rather more 'precious' and 'soul-like' in nature.

OneLook® - An easy dictionary look-up website

Here's a useful site I found, where you can search several online dictionaries from one site:

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