To be upset is to be disturbed or very unhappy. You can be upset, and you can also upset someone — but you probably didn’t mean to.

Upset has multiple senses. It generally refers to something that has been knocked over, turned upside down, or disturbed. Just as your coffee cup can be upset — knocked over or disturbed –- so can your emotions –- and your stomach. Upset can also refer to an unexpected victory. You might be so upset by the upset of your favorite team that you upset your table in frustration.

Definitions of upset
  1. verb
    cause to lose one's composure
    synonyms: discomfit, discompose, disconcert, rattle, untune
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    enervate, faze, unnerve, unsettle
    disturb the composure of
    cause to lose control emotionally
    bemuse, bewilder, discombobulate, throw
    cause to be confused emotionally
    abash, embarrass
    cause to be embarrassed; cause to feel self-conscious
    anguish, hurt, pain
    cause emotional anguish or make miserable
    cause great unhappiness for; distress
    cause to lose one's nerve
    confuse, disconcert, flurry, put off
    cause to feel embarrassment
    break someone's heart
    cause deep emotional pain and grief to somebody
    agonise, agonize
    cause to agonize
    aggrieve, grieve, harrow
    cause to feel distress
    oppress or trouble greatly
    strain, stress, try
    test the limits of
    give pain or trouble to
    excruciate, rack, torment, torture
    torment emotionally or mentally
    type of:
    arouse, elicit, enkindle, evoke, fire, kindle, pique, provoke, raise
    call forth (emotions, feelings, and responses)
  2. verb
    move deeply
    “This book upset me”
    synonyms: disturb, trouble
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    agitate, charge, charge up, commove, excite, rouse, turn on
    cause to be agitated, excited, or roused
    disturb (someone's) composure
    cark, disorder, disquiet, distract, perturb, trouble, unhinge
    disturb in mind or make uneasy or cause to be worried or alarmed
    cause mental pain to
    hype up, psych up
    get excited or stimulated
    vex, worry
    disturb the peace of mind of; afflict with mental agitation or distress
    make nervous or agitated
    cause to feel distressed or worried
    make upset or troubled
    excite suddenly and intensely
    type of:
    affect, impress, move, strike
    have an emotional or cognitive impact upon
  3. noun
    an unhappy and worried mental state
    “she didn't realize the upset she caused me”
    synonyms: disturbance, perturbation
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    type of:
    a mental state of extreme emotional disturbance
  4. noun
    a physical condition in which there is a disturbance of normal functioning
    “everyone gets stomach upsets from time to time”
    synonyms: disorder
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    immunological disorder
    a disorder of the immune system
    functional disorder
    disorder showing symptoms for which no physiological or anatomical cause can be identified
    organic disorder
    disorder caused by a detectable physiological or structural change in an organ
    the condition in which the upper teeth do not touch the lower teeth when biting
    abruptio placentae
    a disorder of pregnancy in which the placenta prematurely separates from the wall of the uterus
    an abnormal deficiency or absence of free hydrochloric acid in the gastric juice; often associated with severe anemias and cancer of the stomach
    acholia, cholestasis
    a condition in which little or no bile is secreted or the flow of bile into the digestive tract is obstructed
    achylia, achylia gastrica
    absence of gastric juices (partial or complete)
    acute brain disorder, acute organic brain syndrome
    any disorder (as sudden confusion or disorientation) in an otherwise normal person that is due to reversible (temporary) impairment of brain tissues (as by head injuries or drugs or infection)
    ailment, complaint, ill
    an often persistent bodily disorder or disease; a cause for complaining
    eating disorder
    a disorder of the normal eating routine
    bladder disorder
    a disorder of the urinary bladder
    cardiovascular disease
    a disease of the heart or blood vessels
    celiac disease
    a disorder in children and adults; inability to tolerate wheat protein (gluten); symptoms include foul-smelling diarrhea and emaciation; often accompanied by lactose intolerance
    cheilosis, perleche
    a disorder of the lips marked by scaling and fissures at the corners of the mouth; caused by a deficiency of riboflavin
    a condition caused by blocking the airways to the lungs (as with food or swelling of the larynx)
    a condition in which the vagina is unusually dry
    degenerative disorder
    condition leading to progressive loss of function
    a disorder in the sense of touch
    dysosmia, olfactory impairment, parosamia
    a disorder in the sense of smell
    condition in which swallowing is difficult or painful
    painful or difficult urination
    loss of ability to function normally
    an ill-defined state of irritability and distress
    adenosis, gland disease, glandular disease, glandular disorder
    a disorder of the glands of the body
    a condition characterized by excessive restlessness and movement
    impacted tooth, impaction
    a disorder in which a tooth is so crowded in its socket that it cannot erupt normally
    a disorder in which feces are impacted in the lower colon
    learning disability, learning disorder
    a disorder found in children of normal intelligence who have difficulties in learning specific skills
    (dentistry) a condition in which the opposing teeth do not mesh normally
    idiopathic disease, idiopathic disorder, idiopathy
    any disease arising from internal dysfunctions of unknown cause
    disturbance, folie, mental disorder, mental disturbance, psychological disorder
    (psychiatry) a psychological disorder of thought or emotion; a more neutral term than mental illness
    metabolic disorder
    a disorder or defect of metabolism
    nervous disorder, neurological disease, neurological disorder
    a disorder of the nervous system
    disorder in which serous fluid accumulates in a body sac (especially in the scrotum)
    sleep disorder
    a disturbance of the normal sleep pattern
    the condition of having respiration stopped by compression of the air passage
    haematocolpometra, hematocolpometra
    accumulation of blood in the vagina and uterus
    haematocolpos, hematocolpos
    accumulation of menstrual blood in the vagina (usually due to an imperforate hymen)
    defect of speech, speech defect, speech disorder
    a disorder of oral speech
    psilosis, sprue, tropical sprue
    a chronic disorder that occurs in tropical and non-tropical forms and in both children and adults; nutrients are not absorbed; symptoms include foul-smelling diarrhea and emaciation
    immunological disorder in which some part of the body's immune system is inadequate and resistance to infectious diseases is reduced
    lowering the body's normal immune response to invasion by foreign substances; can be deliberate (as in lowering the immune response to prevent rejection of a transplanted organ) or incidental (as a side effect of radiotherapy or chemotherapy for cancer)
    an inability to stay awake
    an inability to sleep; chronic sleeplessness
    pavor nocturnus, sleep terror disorder
    a disorder of sleep characterized by a dream of terrifying dimensions far worse than a typical nightmare; they occur during NREM sleep
    a prolonged disorder of eating due to loss of appetite
    an eating disorder, frequent in children, in which non-nutritional objects are eaten persistently
    binge-purge syndrome, binge-vomit syndrome, bulima nervosa, bulimarexia
    a disorder of eating in which the person alternates between strong craving for food and aversion to food; characterized by excessive eating followed by periods of fasting or self-induced vomiting
    binge-eating syndrome, bulimia
    a disorder of eating in which people go on eating binges and then feel guilt and depression and self-condemnation
    loss of the myelin covering of some nerve fibers resulting in their impaired function
    any degenerative disorder resulting from inadequate or faulty nutrition
    (dentistry) malocclusion in which the upper teeth extend abnormally far over the lower teeth
    excessive secretion of parathyroid hormone resulting in abnormally high levels of calcium in the blood; can affect many systems of the body (especially causing bone resorption and osteoporosis)
    inadequate secretion of parathyroid hormone resulting in abnormally low levels of calcium in the blood
    excessive activity of the pituitary gland (especially overactivity of the anterior lobe which leads to excess secretion of growth hormone)
    Asperger's syndrome
    a psychiatric disorder usually noted during early school years; characterized by impaired social relations and by repetitive patterns of behavior
    alcaptonuria, alkaptonuria
    a rare recessive metabolic anomaly marked by ochronosis and the presence of alkapton in the urine
    brain damage
    injury to the brain that impairs its functions (especially permanently); can be caused by trauma to the head, infection, hemorrhage, inadequate oxygen, genetic abnormality, etc.
    brain disease, brain disorder, encephalopathy
    any disorder or disease of the brain
    ataxia, ataxy, dyssynergia, motor ataxia
    inability to coordinate voluntary muscle movements; unsteady movements and staggering gait
    atopognosia, atopognosis
    absence or loss of topognosia; inability to locate correctly a point of touch
    abnormality in performing voluntary muscle movements
    MS, disseminated multiple sclerosis, disseminated sclerosis, multiple sclerosis
    a chronic progressive nervous disorder involving loss of myelin sheath around certain nerve fibers
    Parkinson's, Parkinson's disease, Parkinson's syndrome, Parkinsonism, paralysis agitans, shaking palsy
    a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system characterized by tremor and impaired muscular coordination
    any of several degenerative nervous disorders characterized by spasmodic movements of the body and limbs
    flaccid paralysis
    weakness or loss of muscle tone resulting from injury or disease of the nerves innervating the muscles
    impaired ability to learn grade-appropriate mathematics
    impaired ability to learn to write
    impaired ability to learn to read
    partial or total loss of articulate speech resulting from lesions of the central nervous system
    cardiopathy, heart disease
    a disease of the heart
    high blood pressure, hypertension
    a common disorder in which blood pressure remains abnormally high (a reading of 140/90 mm Hg or greater)
    abnormally low blood pressure
    ALS, Lou Gehrig's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
    thickening of tissue in the motor tracts of the lateral columns and anterior horns of the spinal cord; results in progressive muscle atrophy that starts in the limbs
    aneurism, aneurysm
    a cardiovascular disease characterized by a saclike widening of an artery resulting from weakening of the artery wall
    a continuous succession of slow, writhing, involuntary movements of the hands and feet and other body parts
    a progressive disease of the central nervous system marked by increasing lack of coordination and advancing to paralysis and death within a year of the appearance of symptoms; thought to have been transmitted by cannibalistic consumption of diseased brain tissue since the disease virtually disappeared when cannibalism was abandoned
    nerve compression
    harmful pressure on a nerve (especially in nerves that pass over rigid prominences); causes nerve damage and muscle weakness
    circulatory failure
    failure of the cardiovascular system to supply adequate amounts of blood to body tissues
    coronary failure, heart failure
    inability of the heart to pump enough blood to sustain normal bodily functions
    kidney failure, renal failure
    inability of the kidneys to excrete wastes and to help maintain the electrolyte balance
    Addison's disease, Addison's syndrome, hypoadrenalism, hypoadrenocorticism
    a glandular disorder caused by failure of function of the cortex of the adrenal gland and marked by anemia and prostration with brownish skin
    a glandular disease or enlargement of glandular tissue (especially of the lymph glands)
    aldosteronism, hyperaldosteronism
    a condition caused by overproduction of aldosterone
    Cushing's disease, hyperadrenalism
    a glandular disorder caused by excessive ACTH resulting in greater than normal functioning of the adrenal gland; characterized by obesity
    Cushing's syndrome, hyperadrenocorticism
    a glandular disorder caused by excessive cortisol
    hyperthyroidism, thyrotoxicosis
    an overactive thyroid gland; pathologically excessive production of thyroid hormones or the condition resulting from excessive production of thyroid hormones
    an underactive thyroid gland; a glandular disorder resulting from insufficient production of thyroid hormones
    reduction or lack of an immune response to a specific antigen
    inborn error of metabolism
    any of a number of diseases in which an inherited defect (usually a missing or inadequate enzyme) results in an abnormality of metabolism
    a disorder of lipid metabolism; abnormal levels of certain fats accumulate in the body
    lysine intolerance
    a disorder in which a lack of certain enzymes makes it impossible to digest the amino acid lysine
    a minor nonspecific ailment
    kinetosis, motion sickness
    the state of being dizzy or nauseated because of the motions that occur while traveling in or on a moving vehicle
    any of various disorders of lipoprotein and cholesterol metabolism that result in high levels of lipoprotein and cholesterol in the circulating blood
    any of various disorders of lipoprotein and cholesterol metabolism that result in low levels of lipoprotein and cholesterol in the circulating blood
    sleep apnea
    apnea that occurs during sleep
    anxiety disorder
    a cover term for a variety of mental disorders in which severe anxiety is a salient symptom
    psychosomatic disorder
    a mental disorder that causes somatic symptoms
    a disorder in one's mental state
    conversion disorder, conversion hysteria, conversion reaction
    a mental disorder characterized by the conversion of mental conflict into somatic forms (into paralysis or anesthesia having no apparent cause)
    a usually brief state of excitement and mental confusion often accompanied by hallucinations
    delusional disorder
    any mental disorder in which delusions play a significant role
    involuntary defecation not attributable to physical defects or illness
    folie a deux
    the simultaneous occurrence of symptoms of a mental disorder (as delusions) in two persons who are closely related (as siblings or man and wife)
    personality disorder
    inflexible and maladaptive patterns of behavior
    affective disorder, emotional disorder, emotional disturbance, major affective disorder
    any mental disorder not caused by detectable organic abnormalities of the brain and in which a major disturbance of emotions is predominant
    resembling schizophrenia but remaining within the bounds of normality
    neurosis, neuroticism, psychoneurosis
    a mental or personality disturbance not attributable to any known neurological or organic dysfunction
    aphonia, voicelessness
    a disorder of the vocal organs that results in the loss of voice
    flaccid bladder
    a urinary bladder disorder resulting from interruption of the reflex arc normally associated with voiding urine; absence of bladder sensation and over-filling of the bladder and inability to urinate voluntarily
    neurogenic bladder
    a urinary bladder disorder caused by a lesion in the nervous system
    spastic bladder
    a urinary bladder disorder resulting from spinal cord lesion or multiple sclerosis or trauma; absence of bladder sensation and incontinence and interrupted voiding of urine
    a speech disorder in which the same word is repeated several times in succession
    impaired articulatory ability resulting from defects in the peripheral motor nerves or in the speech musculature
    impaired ability to express ideas verbally; usually resulting from difficulties of reasoning (as in feeblemindedness or certain psychoses)
    speech disorder attributable to a disorder of phonation
    defective articulation of the `l' phoneme or the phoneme `r' is pronounced as `l'
    speech defect involving excessive use or unusual pronunciation of the phoneme `l'
    a speech defect that involves pronouncing `s' like voiceless `th' and `z' like voiced `th'
    stammer, stutter
    a speech disorder involving hesitations and involuntary repetitions of certain sounds
    dissociative disorder
    dissociation so severe that the usually integrated functions of consciousness and perception of self break down
    type of:
    physical condition, physiological condition, physiological state
    the condition or state of the body or bodily functions
  5. noun
    the act of disturbing the mind or body
    “his carelessness could have caused an ecological upset
    synonyms: derangement, overthrow
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    type of:
    the act of disturbing something or someone; setting something in motion
  6. adjective
    afflicted with or marked by anxious uneasiness or trouble or grief
    “too upset to say anything”
    synonyms: disquieted, distressed, disturbed, worried
    characterized by or indicative of distress or affliction or danger or need
  7. adjective
    mildly physically distressed
    “an upset stomach”
    ill, sick
    affected by an impairment of normal physical or mental function
  8. verb
    cause to overturn from an upright or normal position
    synonyms: bowl over, knock over, overturn, tip over, tump over, turn over
    overturn, tip over, tump over, turn over
    turn from an upright or normal position
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    type of:
    displace, move
    cause to move or shift into a new position or place, both in a concrete and in an abstract sense
  9. verb
    disturb the balance or stability of
    “The hostile talks upset the peaceful relations between the two countries”
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    type of:
    disturb, touch
    tamper with
  10. noun
    the act of upsetting something
    “he was badly bruised by the upset of his sled at a high speed”
    synonyms: overturn, turnover
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    type of:
    inversion, upending
    turning upside down; setting on end
  11. adjective
    having been turned so that the bottom is no longer the bottom
    “the upset pitcher of milk”
    synonyms: overturned, upturned
    moved around an axis or center
  12. adjective
    thrown into a state of disarray or confusion
    “with everything so upset
    synonyms: broken, confused, disordered
    disorganised, disorganized
    lacking order or methodical arrangement or function
  13. verb
    defeat suddenly and unexpectedly
    “The foreign team upset the local team”
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    type of:
    defeat, get the better of, overcome
    win a victory over
  14. noun
    an improbable and unexpected victory
    “the biggest upset since David beat Goliath”
    synonyms: overturn
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    type of:
    an attainment that is successful
  15. adjective
    used of an unexpected defeat of a team favored to win
    “the Bills' upset victory over the Houston Oilers”
    not expected or anticipated
  16. verb
    form metals with a swage
    synonyms: swage
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    type of:
    forge, form, mold, mould, shape, work
    make something, usually for a specific function
  17. noun
    a tool used to thicken or spread metal (the end of a bar or a rivet etc.) by forging or hammering or swaging
    synonyms: swage
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    type of:
    an implement used in the practice of a vocation
Commonly confused words

Debunking the Legend of "Upset"

Some stories about word origins recall the old Italian saying, se è non vero, è ben trovato: even if it is not true, it is well invented.

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