Don’t be a word bore: alternative ways of saying ‘happy’

The English language is full of lovely words and phrases used to describe this emotion that we all love and crave – happiness. The sources of these words come from dialects, Ancient Greek, even nursery rhymes, showing you just how varied the sources of English expressions can be.

They’re all still in use in British English today, so we hope you’ll enjoy adding them to your conversations.


British (informal)

1. Very pleased, delighted

This is a very British word meaning happy that’s especially used if you’re particularly pleased with an achievement, for example, “I’m really chuffed with my exam results.” The Oxford English Dictionary traces it back to the 1950s, where it comes from the dialect ‘chuff’ meaning ‘plump or pleased’. Unusually, the word also seems to have meant the opposite in the past – to be ‘chuffed off’ meant to be very annoyed or angry and was even used as an insult – ‘why don’t you chuff off!’. This was slang used mainly in the North of the UK, around Yorkshire and this meaning is seldom heard today. These days you’re far more likely to hear or read the word chuffed informally in combination with ‘well’ or ‘dead’ – “I’m dead chuffed with my exam results” or “I’m well chuffed I won the race.”



1. Feeling or expressing overwhelming happiness or joyful excitement
2. Involving an experience of mystic self-transcendence – an ecstatic vision of God
3. Marked by or expressing ecstasy
4. Being in a state of ecstasy; joyful or enraptured

As you can see from these dictionary definitions, this is a very different kind of happiness – marked by an almost otherworldly feeling. If you are ecstatic you are truly, deeply happy. This word comes from the Ancient Greek ‘ekstatikos’ meaning ‘ecstasy’ and so it’s used to talk about the state of extreme happiness that makes you feel this way.

Over the moon

British (informal)

1. To be very pleased or delighted

This phrase has been part of the British language for centuries, although its popularity grew over the last 30 years or so as it was adopted by English football managers and was heard a lot in their post-match interviews on TV and radio. As a result, its use started to spread. The phrase originally dates all the way back to the 16th century, with the famous nursery rhyme ‘High Diddle Diddle’:

High diddle diddle,
The Cat and the Fiddle,
The Cow jump’d over the Moon,
The little dog laugh’d to see such Craft,
And the Dish ran away with the Spoon.

Over the years the phrase came to mean a kind of happiness of great joy, excitement and energy. One of the earliest examples of the phrase being used in this way in print comes from Charles Molloy’s ‘The Coquet’, from 1718:

“Tis he! I know him now: I shall jump over the Moon for Joy!”

Tickled pink


1. To be very pleased, delighted, entertained or excited

This describes the kind of happiness that really gets your skin glowing. It’s similar to ‘over the moon’ in that this phrase is used when the happiness you’re talking about makes you feel excited too. For example, if someone you like pays you a compliment you would be ‘tickled pink’. Here the word tickling doesn’t mean the physical stroking of the skin – it’s used in the figurative sense where it means ‘to give pleasure or gratify’ – essentially, you’re so happy and receiving so much pleasure that your skin glows pink. The word ‘tickled’ in this sense has been traced back to the early 17th century, but the earliest known use of ‘tickled pink’ in print dates from an appearance in an Illinois; newspaper in 1910:

“Grover Laudermilk was tickled pink over Kinsella’s move in buying him from St. Louis.”