Are there a stable expression for a situation when Person A blames B and tells how B is bad in order to make himself (A) feel good?

I would say something like "feed ego at cost of others", but I google it and it looks like "feed ego" has rather positive meaning in English and means "making feel good by doing good work or receiving a compliment".

  • Can it be – "Sling/throw mud at others?" However it doesn't include the *making himself feel good" part. May 13, 2017 at 10:37
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    Related: english.stackexchange.com/questions/251730/…
    – Dave
    May 13, 2017 at 12:19
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    "Bully" seems short and sweet.
    – Kirk Woll
    May 13, 2017 at 13:55
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    Sadist? No one? May 14, 2017 at 2:15
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    Less an idiom and more a diagnosis: Narcissistic Personality Disorder or Borderline Personality Disorder.
    – M.Mat
    May 14, 2017 at 3:44

9 Answers 9


I don't know of a word or phrase that captures everything you are describing. I think to make himself feel good sounds fine. So I recommend a few ways to change the first part of your sentence. I provide this simplified model:

Person A ____ Person B to make himself feel good.

Aside from the other good answers, I think bully (mentioned in the comments) and ridicule are also possible.

  • bully
    transitive verb
    1 : to treat (someone) in a cruel, insulting, threatening, or aggressive fashion : to act like a bully toward • bullied her younger brother)
  • ridicule
    : to laugh at and make jokes about (someone or something) in a cruel or harsh way : to make fun of (someone or something)

The context should imply that B would feel bad.

Crudely, you can say crap on (mildly offensive) or shit on (offensive):

shit on somebody
— phrasal verb with shit uk ​ /ʃɪt/ us ​ /ʃɪt/ verb present participle shitting, past tense and past participle shit, shat or shitted offensive
to treat someone very badly and unkindly:
He made his money by shitting on other people.
(Cambridge Dictionary)

Lastly, you don't need it, but I think it's idiomatic to include just in the sentence. It stresses the idea that Person A only does that to make himself feel good. It makes A look really bad.

Person A ____ Person B just to make himself feel good.


You could say

She tends to belittle people.

That is, to treat them as inferior or insignificant.

  • To clarify the context you can say: She tends to belittle people out of insecurity/due to her own insecurities. May 14, 2017 at 6:27
  • Right. You would have to add a phrase of explanation. I can't think of any one word which expresses both the idea of belittling others and the motive for doing it. May 14, 2017 at 11:25
  • I think 'belittle' implies the motive of 'making himself greater in contrast'. So I think your answer is great! +1 May 14, 2017 at 23:16

I don't know an idiom that would express the sadistic pleasure of inflicting pain in others either physically or mentally, but there's a word borrowed from German. Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines it as:


enjoyment obtained from the troubles of others;

a feeling of enjoyment that comes from seeing or hearing about the troubles of other people.


However, Wikipedia describes an equivalent English expression:

Roman holiday:

metaphor from the poem Childe Harold's Pilgrimage by George Gordon, Lord Byron, where a gladiator in ancient Rome expects to be "butchered to make a Roman holiday" while the audience would take pleasure from watching his suffering. The term suggests debauchery and disorder in addition to sadistic enjoyment.

  • Thanks, but are those the expressions, which every native language user would understand? I need an expressions for an effective communication, not for a novel.
    – klm123
    May 13, 2017 at 12:08
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    As a native english speaker who doesn't speak German, I can say that Schadenfreude is the first word I thought of when seeing this question. I think it's fairly well known. But I've never heard "Roman holiday" before and wouldn't have a clue what it meant.
    – Dave
    May 13, 2017 at 12:15
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    I am a native speaker of English familiar with both words/phrases in this answer, but do not think either of them properly capture what the OP was asking about.
    – Mark S.
    May 13, 2017 at 12:25
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    Problem with schadenfreude is I'm pretty sure it's a passive enjoyment -- as in, the person taking in the enjoyment was not the actor responsible for the other person's misery. This, for example.
    – Kirk Woll
    May 13, 2017 at 13:54
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    Glad you beat me to that, @KirkWoll -- schadenfreude is definitely passive. As far as its familiarity to (US) English speakers, hrm... I wouldn't hesitate to use it in conversation, but also wouldn't be surprised if I got a confused look in response. I'd expect something like 75% of people to understand it, perhaps. Roman holiday is going to be less familiar (except, perhaps, as the title of a film) and IMHO still doesn't quite fit...
    – A C
    May 13, 2017 at 16:12

You could say that person A often "puts people down". See definition 1(c) of "put down [phrasal verb]" at the Merriam-Webster Learner's Dictionary entry for the verb put.

I am a native speaker of English, and I am familiar with the word "schadenfreude". But I feel that, at least in English, "schadenfreude" carries no implication that there is communication between the people of any kind. If person A heard that person B is in a tough situation and feels joy, that's probably "schadenfreude", but I don't think that's the situation kim123 is trying to describe.

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    What about the "making himself feel good" part of OP? May 13, 2017 at 12:39
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    @LucianSava, I would say that is strongly implied pragmatically. If you say "They often put people down." and don't immediately continue with something like "but they're going to therapy to try to stop", they probably feel good when they do it.
    – Mark S.
    May 13, 2017 at 12:42
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    Yes, this. The line "Never put someone else down to make yourself feel better" has even made it into the Pinterest-sphere.
    – 1006a
    May 15, 2017 at 5:00

I feel strongly that there is a phrase for this -- but I just can't think of it!

Eventually I stumbled upon something like building yourself up by tearing others down. It returns quite a few search results (if not for that exact phrase, then several sub-phrases), but doesn't seem to be a direct quote of anyone in particular -- although I guess that's pretty much what idioms are.

  • PS, I know English Language and Usage has fairly strict rules about citing things. I tried to include the search results, although the links therein are mostly "fluffy" stuff, not really worthy of sharing; they just illustrate that such a phrase is in fairly wide use.
    – pjs36
    May 14, 2017 at 0:46
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    Yeah, the bolded text is definitely a real thing. So nice suggestion.
    – Kirk Woll
    May 15, 2017 at 0:41

What I'm about to suggest is not an idiom or a phrase, but a very specific word which has the exact same meaning as the title.

a person who gets pleasure, sometimes sexual, by being cruel to or hurting another person

-Cambridge Dictionary

You can say that A is being sadistic towards B.

This word often has a negative sexual connotation associated with it, which is why I personally wouldn't recommend using it.

(By the way, I'm a little surprised that nobody even thought of it.)


Bucket Dipper

There is a kids book, which I don't recall the name of.

In the book, all people are said to have imaginary happiness buckets. The amount of happiness in it can get more or less.

Bucket fillers fill their buckets with happiness by being kind to others and in the process, fill others' buckets too.

Bucket dippers try to fill their own happiness buckets by dipping into others' happiness buckets (i.e. stealing their happiness by being mean and putting them down). But they can never really get a bucket brimming with happiness; sometimes they just keep trying.

It's a useful observation about how some people work.

  • I guess this is the book you're talking of: amazon.com/How-Full-Your-Bucket-Kids/dp/1595620273. May 14, 2017 at 13:44

Your potential answer, "Feed ego at cost of others" does describe exactly what you want. "Feed ego" is a positive term and "cost of others" is a negative. The negative aspect affects the victim (the one being blamed) but the one doing the blaming will have a positive gain on their ego (thus feeding their ego). Overall the effect is negative to an outside perspective but to the one trying to feel good the effect is a positive one or, in this case, they wouldn't be doing it.


You are describing the most common, obvious form of verbal abuse. Verbal abuse is a form of psychological abuse.

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