Ask Difference

Remorse vs. Regret — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman — Updated on September 19, 2023
"Remorse" refers to deep emotional anguish stemming from guilt over past actions, whereas "regret" indicates a feeling of sadness or disappointment about something that has happened.
Remorse vs. Regret — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Remorse and Regret


Key Differences

"Remorse" and "regret" are two emotional states that people often experience when looking back on their past decisions or actions. However, they are not synonymous and differ subtly in their intensity and moral implications. Remorse usually indicates a deeper level of emotional suffering, typically stemming from guilt or a sense of moral wrongdoing. On the other hand, regret is more about feeling sad or disappointed over an outcome, which may or may not have ethical implications.
The intensity of the emotion also distinguishes remorse from regret. Remorse often involves a painful reckoning with one's conscience, potentially leading to a change in behavior or attempts to make amends. In contrast, regret can be a more transient emotion that might not lead to any significant behavioral change. While remorse is akin to moral anguish, regret could be as simple as wishing you had chosen a different meal at a restaurant.
In terms of grammatical structure, both remorse and regret serve as nouns but can also function in sentences as verbs. For instance, one can "feel remorse" or "regret something." In both cases, the words describe a mental state but they differ in the emotional depth and moral nuances they carry.
Another point to consider is that remorse is more often used in serious or ethical contexts, like criminal justice, whereas regret can be applied in more casual scenarios. For example, a judge might discuss the remorse shown by a defendant, while regret could be experienced over a missed opportunity, like not buying a lottery ticket that turns out to be a winner.

Comparison Chart

Emotional Intensity

Deeper, more emotional
Less intense

Moral Component

Usually present
May or may not be present

Grammatical Role

Noun, can be a verb
Noun, can be a verb

Context of Usage

Serious or ethical contexts
Casual to serious contexts

Behavior Modification

Often leads to change
May not lead to change

Compare with Definitions


A regret so intense it affects one’s well-being.
Living with remorse affected his mental health.


Mental distress caused by disappointment.
His face showed regret when he received the test results.


A feeling of deep regret with an ethical dimension.
Her remorse led her to volunteer at the homeless shelter.


A feeling of sadness or disappointment over something that has happened.
He felt regret for not visiting his mother more often.


Deep emotional anguish arising from guilt.
His remorse over stealing was overwhelming.


A sense of loss or longing for a different outcome.
She looked back with regret at the years wasted.


A strong feeling of guilt and repentance.
She felt immense remorse after lying to her friend.


Disappointment over a choice or action.
His main regret was not pursuing his dream job.


A painful sense of regret for wrongdoing.
His eyes were filled with remorse when he confessed.


Regret is the emotion of wishing one had made a different decision in the past, because the consequences of the decision were unfavorable. Regret is related to perceived opportunity.


Remorse is a distressing emotion experienced by an individual who regrets actions which they have done in the past that they deem to be shameful, hurtful, or wrong. Remorse is closely allied to guilt and self-directed resentment.


Feel sad, repentant, or disappointed over (something that one has done or failed to do)
She immediately regretted her words
I always regretted that I never trained


Deep regret or guilt for a wrong committed
They were filled with remorse and shame


A feeling of sadness, repentance, or disappointment over an occurrence or something that one has done or failed to do
He had to decline, to his regret
She expressed her regret at Virginia's death


Moral anguish arising from repentance for past misdeeds; bitter regret.


To feel sorry, disappointed, distressed, or remorseful about
I regret not speaking to her before she left.


(Obsolete) Compassion.


To remember with a feeling of loss or sorrow; mourn
"He almost regretted the penury which he had suffered during the last two years since the desperate struggle merely to keep body and soul together had deadened the pain of living" (W. Somerset Maugham).


A feeling of regret or sadness for doing wrong or sinning.


To feel regret.


(obsolete) Sorrow; pity; compassion.


A feeling of sorrow, disappointment, distress, or remorse about something that one wishes could be different.


The anguish, like gnawing pain, excited by a sense of guilt; compunction of conscience for a crime committed, or for the sins of one's past life.


A sense of loss and longing for someone or something gone or passed out of existence
"We have both had flashes of regret for those vanished, golden people" (Anne Rivers Siddons).


Sympathetic sorrow; pity; compassion.
Curse on the unpardoning prince, whom tears can drawTo no remorse.
But evermore it seem'd an easier thingAt once without remorse to strike her dead.


Regrets A courteous expression of regret, especially at having to decline an invitation.


A feeling of deep regret (usually for some misdeed)


To feel sorry about (a thing that has or has not happened), afterthink: to wish that a thing had not happened, that something else had happened instead.
He regretted his words.


(more generally) To feel sorry about (any thing).
I regret that I have to do this, but I don't have a choice.


To miss; to feel the loss or absence of; to mourn.


Emotional pain on account of something done or experienced in the past, with a wish that it had been different; a looking back with dissatisfaction or with longing.


(obsolete) Dislike; aversion.


(decision theory) The amount of avoidable loss that results from choosing the wrong action.


Pain of mind on account of something done or experienced in the past, with a wish that it had been different; a looking back with dissatisfaction or with longing; grief; sorrow; especially, a mourning on account of the loss of some joy, advantage, or satisfaction.
What man does not remember with regret the first time he read Robinson Crusoe?
Never any prince expressed a more lively regret for the loss of a servant.
From its peaceful bosom [the grave] spring none but fond regrets and tender recollections.


Dislike; aversion.


To experience regret on account of; to lose or miss with a sense of regret; to feel sorrow or dissatisfaction on account of (the happening or the loss of something); as, to regret an error; to regret lost opportunities or friends.
Calmly he looked on either life, and hereSaw nothing to regret, or there to fear.
In a few hours they [the Israelites] began to regret their slavery, and to murmur against their leader.
Recruits who regretted the plow from which they had been violently taken.


Sadness associated with some wrong done or some disappointment;
He drank to drown his sorrows
He wrote a note expressing his regret
To his rue, the error cost him the game


Feel remorse for; feel sorry for; be contrite about


Feel sad about the loss or absence of


Decline formally or politely;
I regret I can't come to the party


Be sorry;
I regret to say that you did not gain admission to Harvard


A wish that something had not occurred.
She expressed regret over the missed opportunity.

Common Curiosities

What is Regret?

Regret is a feeling of sadness or disappointment about something that has happened.

Does Regret always involve moral guilt?

No, regret can exist without a moral component.

Are both words nouns?

Yes, both remorse and regret are nouns but can also function as verbs.

Can Remorse lead to behavioral change?

Often, yes. Remorse frequently leads to attempts to make amends or change behavior.

Can you feel Regret over trivial things?

Yes, regret can apply to both trivial and significant matters.

What’s the adjective form of Remorse?

The adjective form is "remorseful."

What’s the adjective form of Regret?

The adjective form is "regretful."

What is Remorse?

Remorse is deep emotional anguish often arising from guilt over past actions.

Can you have Regret without Remorse?

Yes, you can feel regret without necessarily feeling remorse.

Can Remorse be transient?

Usually not. Remorse is typically a deeper, lasting emotion.

How do I use Remorse in a sentence?

Example: "She felt deep remorse for her actions."

How do I use Regret in a sentence?

Example: "He regretted not taking the job offer."

Are Remorse and Regret synonyms?

They are similar but differ in intensity and ethical implications.

Can both words be used interchangeably?

While similar, they are not perfectly interchangeable due to nuances in meaning.

Is Remorse stronger than Regret?

Generally, remorse is a deeper and more intense emotion than regret.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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