What is the difference between "satisfactory" and "satisfying"? Sometimes satisfactory things are not satisfying. What do they mean? Do they both mean the same thing?


3 Answers 3


Both words are similar in meaning, but each one has a slightly different focus. Satisfactory keeps its focus on the object that it describes. But satisfying shifts the focus a bit -- it focuses on how that object relates to others.

For Example:

"This burger is satisfactory." (Sounds like something a judge would say at a grilling contest.)

"This burger is satisfying." (Sounds like what a restaurant patron would say.)

The contest judge says it's satisfactory, because it checks all the boxes on his sheet. The patron tells the waitress that it's satisfying, because the waitress is tending to his experience.

So satisfactory describes something in relation to an objective standard, but satisfying gives a subjective description of the thing. One has a more formal and impersonal tone, the other has a more informal and personal tone.


Satisfactory means something is enough or accepted. On the other hand, satisfying is something that is up to the mark you need or expect!

Said that, if someone's performance is satisfactory, it means the performance is acceptable. If it is satisfying, it touches the standards you expected!

In the sentence in question, the author means to say that in some cases what seems satisfactory (acceptable) is not even satisfying (what you expect).

Good answers are here.


The difference between these is the same as the difference between the verb "to satisfy" and the noun "satisfaction".

Satisfy (v): Meet the expectations, needs, or desires of (someone)

Satisfaction (n): Fulfillment of one's wishes, expectations, or needs, or the pleasure derived from this

To say something is satisfactory means it satisfies a particular condition.

The tomatoes were satisfactory enough to put in the sauce, but I wouldn't use them in a salad.

Her performance on the skills test was satisfactory, but not outstanding.

To say something is satisfying means it provides satisfaction

It was immensely satisfying to the parents to see their oldest child graduate from university, as they had worked all their lives to give her the opportunity.

The most satisfying feature of the new house is the enormous rose gardens in the back yard.

The brief story you told us is hardly satisfying our curiosity. You need to give us more details about what happened!

  • But google definition for satisfactory is fulfilling expectations or needs
    – user61918
    Commented Sep 14, 2017 at 6:09
  • Why are you just quoting the first part of the definition? sat·is·fac·to·ry, (adjective): fulfilling expectations or needs; acceptable, though not outstanding or perfect. "the brakes are satisfactory if not particularly powerful"
    – Andrew
    Commented Sep 14, 2017 at 6:13
  • what is the difference between meeting and fulfilling the expectations. dont they mean the same thing?
    – user61918
    Commented Sep 14, 2017 at 6:15
  • 1
    Yes, they do mean more or less the same thing. You have to use logic. Since the first part of the definition sounds the same for both satisfactory and satisfying you have to look deeper for difference in nuance -- in this case the difference between "meet a condition" and "fulfill a desire"
    – Andrew
    Commented Sep 14, 2017 at 6:19
  • 1
    @user236989 I have given you what I think is a satisfactory answer. I'm sorry that you don't find it satisfying-- so I suggest you read carefully and not worry so much about what you think one dictionary says.
    – Andrew
    Commented Sep 14, 2017 at 15:41

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