Grammar: Nauseated or Nauseous (or Just Plain Sick)?

Nauseated or Nauseous? Writers like to use the most effective, colorful word to describe something. For instance, instead of “sick to her stomach” or “upset stomach,” we like to use “nauseated.” Well, actually, many of us like to use “nauseous,” but that misuse makes my stomach hurt!

Grammar word choice Nauseated or Nauseous “Nauseated” and “nauseous” are two different, not interchangeable words. And yet many people use one when they mean the other.

So what is the correct usage?

When you’re talking about how a person is feeling (sick to the stomach, queasy), you mean “nauseated.”

Nauseated or Nauseous Example:

As she stepped on to the stage to give her speech, she felt nauseated.

When you’re talking about how something is causing you to be sick, that object is described as “nauseous.”

Nauseated or Nauseous Example

I find the smell of cat litter to be nauseous.

Most of the time, I want to describe how a person is feeling when they’re nervous or upset, which is “nauseated.” The way I remember which word to use is by comparing it to other similarly spelled ways that describe how people can feel: “disgusted,” “irritated,” etc.

(If you find you use the other definition more often, you might want to think of other states of being that sound similar, such as “gaseous” or “bilious.”)

One Last Tip, Nauseated or Nauseous?

Do you use the word “nauseating”? It’s a synonym for “nauseous.”

Looking for more grammar tips on word usage? What about All Ready vs. already? Or maybe Affect vs. Effect?


Rachel is a full-on, hardcore grammar freak. Her favorite punctuation marks are parentheses, em dashes, and ellipses. She still loves adverbs but is trying to wean herself off them. And she truly believes that it’s okay to split an infinitive. In addition to her grammar obsession, Rachel writes light contemporary romance – occasionally with a paranormal twist – and is published in short fiction. Rachel also works as a freelance proofreader and copy editor. Learn more at


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