I have read all the dictionaries and surfed the web to find out the nuance between the words: "sentimental" and "emotional", but I'm not able to explain their semantic difference if it comes to! As a reply to a thread on stackexchange, mfe said:

Use sentimental to indicate mood, as in someone who reflects on his/her feelings.
Use emotional to indicate someone who reacts to events by expressing what he/she feels.
Sentimental connotes an internalized feeling, emotional an expressive one.

But actually I guess rarely non-native people would be able to use these two words in their correct places based on a simple definition.

So I wonder if you could provide me with some particular examples so that I could distinguish between these two.

Also I read about the adjective "sentimental" that mostly it is used to refer to the past memories.

A sentimental person is strongly influenced by emotional feelings, especially about happy memories of past events or relationships with other people, rather than by careful thought and judgment based on facts.

I would be greateful if you explain that to me.

Thank you.

1 Answer 1


"Sentiment" is a feeling toward a particular event or situation, or toward the past in general (e.g. nostalgia). It generally connotes a more subdued feeling, and something that is deeper and constant.

"Emotion" is more of a temporary or reactionary feeling (e.g. "how I am feeling at this moment"), connoting something more volatile and circumstantial.

By extension, when used to refer to a person, saying that someone is "sentimental" means that they have deep feelings about something, generally in a tender or subdued manner (internal).

Sentimental. Expressive of or appealing to sentiment, especially the tender emotions and feelings, as love, pity, or nostalgia

Saying that someone is "emotional" generally means that they are prone to outward displays of emotions (external), or perhaps controlled by their feelings.

Emotional. Showing or revealing very strong emotions; subject to or easily affected by emotion; governed by emotion

  • Thank you @geekahedron. Somewhere I read calling someone "sentimental" would sound pejorative to Britons! Is it right? To me someone who is in love, or thinks about their past and nostalgies, always is a very interesting and lovely person! What do you think?
    – A-friend
    Commented May 28, 2019 at 14:00
  • Meanwhile, according to your explanations it seems that a "sentimental" person never displays their true feelings, while an "emotional" person would. Do you agree?
    – A-friend
    Commented May 28, 2019 at 14:01
  • 1
    @A-friend Calling someone or something emotional or sentimental can have either a positive or negative connotation depending on the context.
    – ColleenV
    Commented May 28, 2019 at 14:02
  • Ah @ColleenV, the distinguishment between these two is really a hard work! How shall I do that, I have no idea! :-?
    – A-friend
    Commented May 28, 2019 at 14:07

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