"This world is sad."

Since "sad" can mean either "saddening (depressing)" or "unhappy", I think that this sentence I gave can mean either "This world is saddening." or "This world is unhappy.", am I right? If yes, how can I let the person who is listening to me understand which one I mean when I say that sentence? Is it understood by the context?

For example, let's say I received some bad news about some killings in a country. In this case, if I said "This world is sad", I think it would be understood as "This world is saddening".

  • 2
    It could have many implied meanings. That is why we add extra words for clarity.
    – user3169
    Jul 29, 2018 at 19:55
  • @user3169 - You are right; sad is nowhere near limited to "two meanings." I like the rather extensive list of synonyms found on Wordnik.
    – J.R.
    Jul 30, 2018 at 0:06
  • Also, I think you are looking too hard for a precise meaning. "This world is sad" doesn't have to literally mean "Everyone in the world is sad" or "This world makes me sad", it can just mean something like "This world is characterized by sadness."
    – stangdon
    Jul 30, 2018 at 1:11
  • Thank you for the answers. @J.R. Can I say "This room is sad." for meaning "This room is depressing."? Context: Let's say I have a house. I am sitting in a room with a friend. That room brings back bad memories. I think in that context I can say it for meaning "depressing" - "saddening". But also in a different context, to be more artistic, I can say it to mean "This room is unhappy" as well, right? Jul 30, 2018 at 9:41
  • @FireandIce - Of course you can say, "This room is sad." However, in general, when you use more precise language, there will be less ambiguity in your statement. I think "This room is depressing," or "This room brings back bad memories," are both better than "This room is sad." After all, "This room is sad" could just mean "This room is poorly decorated and in need of a new paint job."
    – J.R.
    Jul 30, 2018 at 10:33

1 Answer 1


This world is sad.

The word sad in the remark above, for instance, uttered after a series of tragic events (e.g. terrorist attacks) occurs, would likely be interpreted to mean "saddening".

However, if something happens that affects everyone the world over simultaneously, perhaps the death of a noteworthy person, and everyone is seen as mourning that person's death, one might say

The whole world is sad.

and thereby employ the whole world as a metaphor for "the people living in this world", with sad meaning "unhappy".

That said, either sentence could be used for either of the described scenarios. The first one is most commonly used hyperbolically (in exaggeration).

To conclude: the word sad has multiple meanings (it's said to be polysemous), and which interpretation will be the salient (conspicuous) one is context-dependent.

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