Nauseous vs. Nauseated: Feel at Ease Using the Right Word

Does the smell of garbage make you feel nauseous or nauseated? These words seem interchangeable, but they actually have different usages and meanings. Find out which one describes that sick feeling in your stomach.

Nauseous (Dirty garbage) versus Nauseated (Girl with nausea) With Definitions Nauseous (Dirty garbage) versus Nauseated (Girl with nausea) With Definitions
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The Difference: Nauseous vs. Nauseated

These words sound similar, but they describe two different situations. The word nauseous refers to something that causes nausea, while nauseated describes that weird feeling when you might throw up.

Word Meaning Example
nauseous causes nausea The smell of garbage is nauseous.
nauseated the feeling of nausea That smell makes me feel nauseated.

Nauseous Meaning: Something That Causes Nausea

The adjective nauseous refers to "something that causes nausea." That means that the thing you're grossed out by is actually the nauseous item. Explore examples of how to use nausea in a sentence:

  • That burned cheese smell is really nauseous.
  • I don't like hearing nauseous jokes about bathroom humor.
  • The sight of blood is very nauseous to me.
  • Our damp basement has a nauseous smell.
  • The taste of broccoli is extremely nauseous to Clint.

Nauseated Meaning: The Feeling of Nausea

If you want to describe that swirly, sick feeling in the pit of your stomach, the word you're looking for is nauseated. It's the participle version of the verb "to nauseate." Examples of correctly using nauseated in a sentence include:

  • Tina felt nauseated at the beginning of her pregnancy.
  • Even the slightest smell of onions makes my mom nauseated.
  • The kids were all nauseated after riding in the car for so long.
  • Do you feel nauseated when you see something disgusting?
  • I've been feeling nauseated after eating those old muffins.

Are Nauseous and Nauseated Interchangeable?

In modern usage, nauseous is the more common way to describe a gross or disgusted feeling. However, to grammar sticklers, using nauseous vs. nauseated interchangeably may result in confusion. For example:

  • The boy was nauseous after riding on the roller coaster. (Was he feeling sick, or was he so stinky that he caused others to be sick?)

  • Eating lots of garlic always makes me nauseous. (Does it make you feel like you're going to throw up, or does it make others feel that way when they smell you?)

  • Our dog was nauseous after being sprayed with a skunk. (Did he smell gross, or did he feel grossed out himself?)

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Word Origin of Nauseous and Nauseated

Both nauseous and nauseated come from the word nausea, which means "stomach sickness or discomfort." But can you see the connection between the word nausea and nautical?

Nautical refers to sailors or ships on the ocean. Its Greek root, naûs, means "ship," and the Greek word nausíā means "seasickness." The word became nausea in Latin, and when added to the Latin suffix -ous, it becomes nauseous — "full of seasickness or stomach discomfort." Nauseate is the verb form of the word nausea — "to become sick."

Grammar Doesn't Have to Be Nauseating

Now that you know the difference between nauseated and nauseous, any grammar discomfort should clear up quickly! If you'd like to clarify more word pairs, take a look at the difference between desert vs. dessert. Or impress even the biggest grammar sticklers with your knowledge of enquire vs. inquire.