You might have seen that most of the adjectives that are related to taste are used to describe emotions.

Salty, sour, sweet, bitter etc. We use these adjectives to describe people and their emotions.

What is the origin of describing emotions with adjectives associated with taste?

Do other languages also use these adjectives for describing emotions?

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    The last part of your question is easily answered: yes, the link between taste and emotional experience is very common, cross-linguistically. To take an example not closely related to English, Mandarin uses 甜 tián for taste and 甜蜜 tiánmì for emotions/behaviour, both meaning ‘sweet’; similarly with ‘bitter’, 苦 ku is used for taste and 辛苦 xīnku for work/circumstances (not people in the same way ‘bitter’ describes a person, though). Aug 24, 2020 at 14:04

1 Answer 1


It may be related to Cognitive Metaphors we use. Our brain tries to simplify abstract concepts, and tries to find some similarities with physical experiences. For example, when the amount of money a person receives becomes more, we say "salary rise" although the height of money does not increase. It is because our brains are accustomed to seeing that the amount increases with height.

Though a cognitive metaphor functions in much the same way, rather than acting merely as an expression, it is a tool for better understanding the world. One concept, which is abstract or theoretical, is compared directly to another concept that is real or physical in nature. This allows someone to more easily create a frame of reference by which the abstract idea can be fully understood.

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