1. A typically lasting state of mind, such as life satisfaction, pleasure, or emotional well-being, or some combination of such states. 

Note: this appears to be the dominant sense of the term in contemporary English, as well as in empirical research. It denotes a psychological condition that is usually regarded as distinct from the specific, and typically short-lived, emotion of feeling happy.

2. Well-being or flourishing: a life that goes well for the person living it. 

Note: this is an older and less common sense of the term, but is still in widespread use, especially in philosophical and theological writings. It tends to be associated with 'happy life', rather than 'being happy'. In this usage, the term embodies a value judgment, to the effect that the person is doing well, and better off than someone leading an unhappy life.

happy, feeling

An emotion associated with smiling, and feelings like cheerfulness, joy or contentment. [Often confused with the longer-term state of being happy; on standard theories of happiness, feeling happy is considered to be, at most, one aspect of being happy.]


A life that goes well for the person living it; doing well; flourishing; thriving; a happy life. [Concerns a type of value, commonly called "prudential value." This value has to do with what benefits a person.]

prudential value

The kind of value involved in well-being, having to do with what benefits a person, is good for her, serves her interests, makes her better off, or makes her life go well for her. [Distinct from other types of value, such as moral value, perfectionist value, or aesthetic value.]

good life

  1. Well-being: a life that goes well for the person living it.
  2. A life that is choiceworthy or desirable, all things considered, typically including moral goodness as well as well-being.

subjective well-being

A positive psychological response to one's life, including both affective states like pleasure or emotional well-being and more cognitive states like life satisfaction. [The term is variously employed, and often serves as an umbrella term for the different states commonly termed happiness. Sometimes it refers just to one of these states, such as life satisfaction.

life satisfaction