By Dr Oliver Tearle (Loughborough University)
Tiredness affects us all at some point. But how else can be express the feeling of being tired? There’s a handful of well-known adjectives which work well as synonyms for tired, but there are other, less obvious synonyms as well. Below, we introduce some of the best synonyms – and antonyms – for the word ‘tired’ in its various senses.
One of the commonest synonyms for ‘tired’ is WEARY, which denotes a loss of strength brought on by lack of energy. This word is from Old English so has been in the English language for over a thousand years (thought to be related to the High German for ‘drunk’ but also related to ‘wandering’ or ‘going astray’).
If you’re excessively fatigued or tired out, you might say you’re WEARIED, a (relatively) recent word which first turned up in the sixteenth century: T. S. Eliot’s ancestor, the prose writer Thomas Elyot, provides the OED with its first citation, from 1538.
Since we mentioned FATIGUED, it’s worth pondering that synonym for ‘tired’, too: in his 1755 Dictionary of the English Language, Samuel Johnson defined ‘fatigued’ as being ‘exhausted with labour’, and back in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries it appeared to be used about tiredness that was the result of work, labour, or toil in particular.
It’s from a Latin word meaning ‘enough’: if you’re fatigued, you’ve had enough (it’s the same root that ended up giving us words satisfaction and satisfactory, meaning you’ve had enough, but in a good way).
If you’re really tired, you might be described as EXHAUSTED, from the Latin meaning ‘to draw out’: all of your energy has been drawn out of you and you have none left, as it’s all been used up or expended. Curiously, the OED’s earliest citation is from John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost (1667), so Milton often gets the credit for ‘coining’ the word; as perhaps he did:
And of their wonted vigour left them drained,
Exhausted, spiritless, afflicted, fallen.
Both DRAINED and WORN OUT convey a similar level of tiredness.
JADED is a little different in that it can refer to both physical exhaustion and a general ennui about the state of the world, or some topic or subject: you can be ‘jaded with life’. This synonym for ‘tired’ or ‘fatigued’, which first turned up in the seventeenth century, is from jade, a term used disparagingly of an inferior horse, especially an old or worn-out one, although jade itself is of uncertain origin.
And talking of old horses, when they were no longer of practical use for riding or farming, horses would be sent to the knacker’s yard for slaughter, and so KNACKERED came to be used as a slang term for being worn-out or exhausted. Indeed, given the other meaning of ‘knackers’, knackered originally meant ‘castrated’ or even ‘killed’, but by the twentieth-century was being used in its less severe and more familiar sense.
DOG-TIRED is another term which is derived from animals, and means exactly what it says: it describes someone who is as tired as a dog after running a long race.
Indeed, there are plenty of synonyms for the word ‘tired’ which belong to the realm of slang. Among the best-known examples are SHATTERED, WHACKED, BUSHED, POOPED, FAGGED, and DEAD BEAT. Many of these are fairly self-explanatory, although the origin of fagged is something of a mystery.
And let’s not forget SLEEPY, meaning you’re not only tired but able to fall asleep pretty much instantly, so worn out are you. This adjective has been in used since the Middle Ages.
ENERVATED is more specialised, and means ‘deprived of strength’: literally, deprived of nerve, and often used to mean ‘weakly’ rather than merely tired. It should not be confused with energised, which is its antonym!
So, there are the leading synonyms for the word ‘tired’. But there are a few rarer words which relate to tiredness, which might also be of interest. For instance, there’s the word RAMMIST, which means ‘dazed and confused from lack of sleep’, or KOPOPHOBIA, a fear of mental or physical exhaustion.
DELASSATION, meanwhile, is a rare word meaning ‘fatigue’ or ‘tiredness’, and LANGUESCENT literally means ‘becoming tired’. And if you’re tired first thing in the morning even before you’ve got out of bed, the word DYSANIA describes the feeling of having a hard time waking up in the morning.
There are several prominent antonyms for the state of being tired. If you’re not tired you are probably ALERT mentally, and physically you might also be ENERGETIC and LIVELY.
FRESH and WIDE AWAKE are two other common terms to describe not being tired, but being its opposite.
ACOPIC is a rarer antonym of ‘tired’, but in a sense, also its antidote: it denotes something that is used for relieving or alleviating tiredness. Coffee, we might say, is a very acopic beverage.