Words for the Woebegone: A Collection of English Idioms About Sadness

Grover Laughtonreviewed bySana Liashuk / more about Editorial Process11 min
Created: May 18, 2023Last updated: Feb 1, 2024
Sad expression

While happiness is undoubtedly wonderful, it’s impossible to ignore that we all experience lows in our emotional state sometimes. As much as we can dislike feeling sad, it remains an integral part of our human experience. Countless reasons can trigger the complex emotion of sadness, and every sad expression we discuss in this article can be used to describe it. So without further delay, let’s dive in.

Why Do We Feel Upset: Different Types of Sadness

Paul Ekman, a renowned psychologist, has identified sadness as one of the six fundamental emotions. However, it’s important to note that not all negative feelings are identical. There are various types of sadness, each triggered by different reasons and resulting in unique emotional experiences. Let’s talk about some of them.

  1. Grief is one of the most profound types of sadness that people experience. This emotion often arises from losing someone or something significant, such as a loved one, a workplace, a pet, or a relationship. Grief can be intense and overwhelming, triggering emotions like emptiness, anger, and longing.
  2. Loneliness is a common feeling that occurs when we feel disconnected from others or lack social support. This form of sadness can be very strong and long-lasting, typically followed by feelings of sorrow, despair, and even physical pain.
  3. Rejection is another prevalent feeling that can cause sadness. We feel rejected when we face unpleasant circumstances, such as being turned away or excluded from something we desire, such as a job, friend group, or relationship. In addition to this emotion, we may experience disappointment, anger, and shame.
  4. Disappointment is a type of sadness that arises from unfulfilled expectations or hopes. This emotion can stem from anything from a failed job interview to a canceled vacation, leaving us feeling let down and disheartened.
  5. Nostalgia is a bittersweet sadness coming from memories of a happy past. It can be triggered by anything that reminds us of our childhood, previous relationships, or places we used to visit. Nostalgia can make us feel sentimental and wistful for a time gone by, but it can also bring up feelings of sadness and longing for something that we can never have again.
  6. Melancholy is a deep and long-lasting sadness that can be difficult to shake off. It can be caused by anything from personal losses to world events, and it can feel like a heavy weight on our shoulders. Melancholy can lead to hopelessness, despair, and a lack of interest in things that used to bring us joy.

We are sorry if you experience one of these or other similar feelings. Remember that it won’t last forever, and the good things are coming. Even if you just have a bad day, keep in mind that your feelings are important. Take good care of yourself; we promise tomorrow will be better!


15 English Idioms About Sadness

Learning useful expressions to describe negative feelings is important, since it helps you express yourself and understand the emotions of your surroundings. Numerous phrases in English relate to different states, and sadness idioms are a significant part of them. Here are some of the most common ones.

  • Down in the dumps.

This idiom is one of our favorites. It describes a temporary unhappy feeling rather than a more serious mental condition. For example:

After the breakup, Sarah was down in the dumps for a while.

I’ve been feeling down in the dumps since losing my job.

Tom was down in the dumps after his team lost the championship game.

  • To feel blue.

You’ve probably heard this one before (I’m blue da ba dee da ba di). Another version of this depressed expression is “to have blues.” Both phrases define a temporary or long-lasting feeling of sadness. For example:

The weather like this makes me feel blue.

She felt blue the last time I saw her.

Mark felt blue after catching his girlfriend cheating.

  • Face like a wet weekend.

This is one of the sad phrases that describe a visible expression of negative emotions. You can use it to tell someone who looks upset. For example:

When I saw him, he had a face like a wet weekend. I could tell something was bothering him.

John had a face like a wet weekend during the whole funeral ceremony.

Sara walked into the office with a face like a wet weekend.

  • Down in the mouth.

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, this idiom also defines sad, unpleasant feelings. For example:

Kate was down in the mouth after receiving that rejection letter.

Everyone on the team was down in the mouth when the project failed.

I was down in the mouth after failing my finals.

  • Woe is me.

This is a very famous expression that sarcastically describes self-pity or sadness about a particular situation. For example:

Woe is me! My phone just broke, and I don’t have a backup.

I am so tired and hungry and lonely. Oh, woe is me.

Woe is me! I forgot my wallet.

  • Reduce to tears.

What do most people do when they feel blue? Of course, they cry (and we want to remind you that it is okay). And this idiom perfectly describes the process of crying due to emotional distress. For example:

This heartbreaking story reduced me to tears.

Molly was reduced to tears after hearing the devastating news.

His emotional speech reduced the audience to tears.

  • A sad state of affairs.

Sometimes, our sadness can be caused by unexpected situations or unfortunate turns of events. This expression is perfect for describing such circumstances. For example:

Their relationship was in a sad state of affairs.

The company was in a sad state of affairs after Jeremy left.

Your breakup is such a sad state of affairs.

  • One’s heart sinks.

As you remember, disappointment is one of the types of sadness. And to describe this feeling with an idiom, you can use this expression. It also means losing hope. For example:

Jame’s heart sank when he realized he had missed the deadline.

Every time I see my ex-boyfriend, my heart sinks.

Her heart sank when her boss told her she was fired.

  • Drowning in sorrow. 

Sorrow is one of the deepest types of sadness. This expression is used when you feel completely overwhelmed by despair and unhappiness. For example:

The funeral left everyone drowning in sorrow.

She was drowning in sorrow after she lost her pet.

Their breakup left Jane drowning in sorrow.

  • Crying a river.

This is another idiom that describes uncontrollable crying. Usually, it is due to intense emotions, deep sadness, or sorrow. Also, this phrase can be used as a taunt, to mock someone who is upset. For example:

Helga cried a river over the phone when I called her.

She was crying a river after watching this movie.

This book always makes me cry a river.

  • Lump in one’s throat.

Have you ever experienced the feeling of something caught in your throat due to strong emotions? If the answer is yes, the best way to describe it is to use this idiom. For example: 

I wasn’t crying, but I had a lump in my throat during the whole movie.

The groom had a lump in his throat when the bride walked down the aisle.

James had a lump in his throat as he read the emotional letter from his best friend.

  • A misery guts.

You can use this idiom to describe someone always complaining and pessimistic, making other people feel unhappy and negative. For example:

She is such a misery guts!

Joey can be a misery guts sometimes, never seeing the positive in anything.

I don’t want to be around him, he is such a misery guts, and it gets me down.

  • In the doldrums.

This idiom refers to a temporary period of being sad (or, sometimes, bored). When you feel this way, you have no energy or enthusiasm to do anything. For example:

I have been in the doldrums for a week, but now I’m ready to be productive again.

I know that Kate has been in the doldrums for a while. How is she now?

When the business was struggling, the owner was in the doldrums.

  • Broken-hearted/heartbroken/a heavy heart.

All three idioms are very similar and share the same definition – all of them describe the sadness caused by various reasons, from a breakup to just watching a sad movie. For example:

I can’t believe you didn’t tell me about that! I am truly heartbroken. 

After the breakup, she was left broken-hearted.

My mom asked me to stay at her house for a while because she had a heavy heart due to the last news.

  • Get somebody down.

The last idiom in our list means to make someone feel upset, sad, or depressed. And even though this phrase is pretty common, we wish you never to use it in your life and never to meet people who get you down. But yet, here are some examples of using it:

I don’t want to meet Sarah. Her toxic attitude always gets me down.

The bad news is always getting me down. 

The main thing that gets me down all the time is my parents’ fighting.

Bonus! Sad Movies to Learn Sad Expressions in English (And Probably Cry)

Like any other English set phrases, idioms about sadness are an integral part of the English language. And as we always say, the best way to learn and master them is to practice. There are many ways to do so, but our favorite is to surround ourselves with English – in music, movies, TV shows, etc. So to help you consolidate all the idioms for sad moods mentioned above, we’ve prepared a list of our favorite movies with simple but valuable vocabulary and heartbreaking plots. 

La Vita E Bella/Life Is Beautiful (1997)

This Italian film tells the story of a man named Guido who falls in love with a woman named Dora and has a child with her. However, their happy life is interrupted when they are sent to a concentration camp during World War II. 

Despite the harsh conditions, Guido remains optimistic and tries to shield his son from the horrors of the camp by pretending that everything is a game. Since this movie is originally Italian, its English dubbing is simple and understandable, even for students with a Pre-Intermediate level.

The Fault in Our Stars (2014)

This movie is based on the novel by renowned author John Green; it follows the story of two teenagers, Hazel and Gus, who meet at a cancer support group. Despite their illness, they fall in love and embark on a journey to meet Hazel’s favorite author. This heartwarming and tragic story explores life, love, and mortality themes. And it can be a great way to practice English sadness expressions and cry yourself to sleep.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (2008)

Set during World War II, this movie tells us about a young boy named Bruno who moves to a new house with his family. His curiosity leads him to explore the area, and he eventually befriends a Jewish boy who lives on the other side of a fence. This inspiring and tragic story about kids’ friendship and the horrors of war definitely won’t leave you indifferent.

The Green Mile (1999)

This legendary movie, based on the novel by Stephen King, follows the story of a death row corrections officer named Paul Edgecomb. He becomes emotionally involved with one of the inmates, a gentle giant named John Coffey, who has supernatural abilities. The movie teaches us about redemption, empathy, and the nature of good and evil. And its all-star cast is totally worth your attention.

Inside I’m Dancing (2004)

Also known as “Rory O’Shea Was Here,” this movie tells the story of two young men with disabilities who live in a care home in Ireland. Despite their physical limitations, they dream of independence and find freedom and joy in their friendship. The movie is more inspiring than sad, but we can guarantee you will drop at least a few tears while watching it. 

Mastering Sad Expression Words with Promova

Although it’s hard to call today’s topic fun, it doesn’t mean we can’t use this word to describe the process of learning English in general. And if you think that studying can’t be exciting and valuable at the same time, let us prove you wrong. We want to introduce you to a fantastic language-learning multi-tool – Promova. 

Depending on your needs, you can find plenty of useful materials on the official website. Our team of professional tutors is waiting for you for personal or group lessons. After passing a quick test to determine your fluency, you can immediately book a trial and see all the benefits of online studying with Promova. And if you want to practice speaking, join our free Conversation club, where you can discuss exciting topics with students from all over the globe.

For those who prefer studying alone, we recommend a convenient Promova application. You can install it on iOS or Android and enjoy fascinating lessons and exciting topics. And, of course, don’t forget about our blog. We regularly update it with helpful and engaging articles to provide valuable tips, discuss the latest news, and simply have fun. As you can see, there is a lot to choose from – so find the perfect opportunity for yourself.


To sum up, we want to remind you that feeling sad sometimes is normal, and taking care of ourselves during these periods is essential. Sadness is an integral part of the human experience, and we should acknowledge and embrace it as such. Learning idioms related to sadness can help us express ourselves better and understand the emotions of those around us. So we hope you’ve learned something new today. And now, let’s alleviate our sadness – tell us about something that made you smile today. We are thrilled to see your comments!


How to overcome sadness?

There are many ways to overcome sadness, and different things work for different people. Some strategies include talking to a trusted friend or family member, practicing self-care such as exercise and healthy eating, engaging in activities that bring you joy, seeking professional help from a therapist or counselor, and practicing mindfulness or meditation.

Are there any idioms for sadness that can be considered outdated or offensive?

As with any language, some idioms may fall out of use or be considered outdated or offensive over time. For example, the phrase “crippled with grief” may be regarded as violative or insensitive to people with disabilities and may be replaced with an alternative such as “overwhelmed with grief.”

What is the difference between sadness and depression?

Sadness is a normal human emotion that appears as a response to various experiences, such as loss, disappointment, or rejection. It is typically temporary and can be alleviated with time, support, and self-care. Depression, on the other hand, is a disorder. It is characterized by persistent sadness, hopelessness, and loss of interest in once enjoyable activities. It can be a serious condition that requires professional treatment.

Can I use sad idioms interchangeably, or do they have specific meanings?

Sad idioms may have different connotations and meanings depending on the context in which they are used. While some expressions may be interchangeable to a certain extent, others may be more specific in their meaning or usage. For example, you can feel blue because of the lousy weather and significant loss at the same time, but you can’t say you drown in sorrow because of the broken nail. It’s essential to be familiar with the nuances of different idioms and to use them appropriately to avoid confusion or misunderstanding.


JadonMar 29th, 2024
I stumbled upon this article by chance, and I'm so glad I did! The author's engaging writing style and insightful commentary kept me hooked from start to finish. It's clear that they put a lot of thought and effort into crafting each sentence, and the result is nothing short of brilliant. Looking forward to exploring more of their work!
Charlie LoweAug 15th, 2023
I love how this article takes a creative spin on sadness idioms. It's a reminder that even in tough times, language can still bring a smile to our faces. Well done! 👍