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Let's say someone is the most successful person in their neighborhood and everyone is very jealous of them. Can I say that that person is the envy of the neighborhood?

I am wondering if "to be the envy of" can have a negative connotation.
In case it does not, is there an idiom of phrase that can be used instead?

I found "green with envy" but the dictionary says that it is usually used light-heartedly rather than disapprovingly.

Edit:
Context: I am trying to translate a phrase from my native language into English. This phrase is used in a song that talks about a shepherd who is in a romantic relationship with a very beautiful woman and the other shepherds feel very jealous of him because of that. The literal translation of this phrase is: "the tormentor of shepherds".

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    If you describe someone as "the envy of the neighbourhood", it means everyone in the neighbourhood wants to be that person, so a positive feeling, not jealousy. Is there a context you're writing this? Might make it easier to come up with an expression
    – gotube
    Jun 23, 2021 at 2:32
  • @gotube Yes. I'm trying to translate a phrase from my native language into English. This phrase is used in a song that talks about a shepherd who has a romantic relationship with a very beautiful woman and the other shepherds feel very jealous of him because of that. The literal translation of this phrase is: "the tormentor of shepherds".
    – Mohammad
    Jun 23, 2021 at 2:45
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    @gotube I really, really like this expression and it's now my favorite. Thanks a lot!
    – Mohammad
    Jun 23, 2021 at 3:33
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    Now that you know it, you can lord it over your friends :)
    – gotube
    Jun 23, 2021 at 3:37
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    Lord it over is more about bossing people around, being self-important, not jealousy.
    – schoon
    Jul 27, 2021 at 9:04

1 Answer 1

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"To be green with jealousy" is not always lighthearted, indeed it usually indicates a serious and negative emotional involvement. Whebn there is a romantic triangle in popular song or fiction, in which A is in love with B, but B is attracted by C, A will often deeply resent the existence or supposed superior attractions of C. An outside, detached observer D might well say that A was green with jealousy of C. Nor is this limited to romantic envy. Consider an excerpt from "The Occasional Garden" by Saki.

"...That is why I am so furious with Gwenda Pottingdon, who has practically forced herself on me for lunch on Wednesday next; she heard me offer the Paulcote girl lunch if she was up shopping on that day, and, of course, she asked if she might come too. She is only coming to gloat over my bedraggled and flowerless borders and to sing the praises of her own detestably over-cultivated garden. I'm sick of being told that it's the envy of the neighbourhood; it's like everything else that belongs to her -- her car, her dinner-parties, even her headaches, they are all superlative; no one else ever had anything like them. When her eldest child was confirmed it was such a sensational event, according to her account of it, that one almost expected questions to be asked about it in the House of Commons, and now she's coming on purpose to stare at my few miserable pansies and the gaps in my sweet-pea border, and to give me a glowing, full-length description of the rare and sumptuous blooms in her rose-garden."

It mihht well be sais that the narrator here is green with envy of Gwenda Pottingdon indeed she is almost making herseld sick over it

However, that idiom does not, I think, really describe the situation suggested in the question.

Some other idioms for envy

  • Jealousy is also known as "the green-eyed monster".

  • One might say of the beauty who has excited envy in the other shepherds that "She makes them eat their hearts out".

  • One night say that the other shepherds have "set their hearts on" the beauty.

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