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Awe vs. Wonder: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Updated on November 8, 2023
Awe is a feeling of reverential respect mixed with fear or wonder, while wonder is a feeling of surprise mingled with admiration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected, or unfamiliar.

Key Differences

Awe is an emotion comparable to wonder but with a significant difference: it carries a sense of overwhelming reverence, fear, or admiration, often for something powerful or grand. Wonder, while similarly a feeling of amazement, lacks the intimidation or reverence aspect, and is more about curiosity or questioning.
When experiencing awe, individuals may feel humbled by the grandeur or power of what they are witnessing, such as the vastness of the ocean or the intensity of a thunderstorm. In contrast, wonder is more intellectual, a desire to know more about something intriguing or complex, like pondering the mechanics of a clock or the patterns of a butterfly's wings.
Awe often strikes suddenly and is associated with a physical reaction: goosebumps, a shiver, or a dropped jaw. Wonder tends to be more reflective, leading to exploration or inquiry, with a sense of wanting to delve deeper into the subject of fascination.
While awe might render someone speechless due to its imposing nature, wonder is likely to inspire questions and discussions. For example, standing before an ancient monument might inspire awe, while examining an intricate artifact from the site might provoke wonder.
Awe is about the emotional response to something mighty or sublime, invoking feelings of insignificance in the face of something greater than oneself. Wonder is about the cognitive quest for understanding, the thrill of the unknown, and the joy of discovery.

Comparison Chart


Reverential respect mixed with fear
Surprise mingled with admiration


Can be overwhelming and powerful
Invokes curiosity and fascination


Physical reaction like goosebumps
Intellectual engagement with questions


Often sudden and imposing
Reflective and inquisitive


Feeling of humility or insignificance
Desire for exploration and knowledge

Awe and Wonder Definitions


An overwhelming feeling of admiration or respect.
The awe-inspiring performance left the audience in silence.


A feeling of surprise mingled with admiration.
The child's eyes were filled with wonder at the fireworks display.


A feeling of reverential respect mixed with fear or wonder.
She felt a sense of awe as she gazed at the Grand Canyon.


The desire to know something; curiosity.
His latest invention piqued a sense of wonder among the scientists.


A powerful emotion prompted by the grandeur or beauty of something.
The astronauts experienced awe at the sight of Earth from space.


A state of fascinated admiration or awe at something beautiful or unfamiliar.
She wandered the museum in wonder at the artifacts.


A profound emotional response to something immensely powerful.
The painter captured the awe of the natural world in his artwork.


Something or someone that causes amazement and admiration.
The technology of the future is a wonder to behold.


The feeling of being in the presence of something vast that transcends understanding.
They stood in awe of the ancient redwood trees.


To think or speculate curiously.
They wondered about the mysteries of the universe.


A feeling of respect or reverence mixed with dread and wonder, often inspired by something majestic or powerful
"There was a fierce purpose in the gale ... that seemed directed at him, and made him hold his breath in awe" (Joseph Conrad).


The emotion aroused by something awe-inspiring, astounding, or surprising
Gazed with wonder at the northern lights.


The power to inspire dread.


The quality that arouses such emotion
"Her long fair hair was girlish.


Can awe turn into fear?

Yes, awe can be mixed with fear, especially in the face of the sublime or powerful.

Is awe always caused by something large or powerful?

Often, but not exclusively; awe can also come from the depth of an experience.

Is it possible to feel awe toward a person?

Yes, people can inspire awe through their actions or presence.

Does wonder always imply a positive feeling?

Generally yes, wonder is a positive feeling of curiosity and admiration.

Can you experience wonder without awe?

Yes, one can feel wonder without the intimidation that can come with awe.

Can animals experience wonder?

It's debated, but animals may show signs of curiosity that could be akin to wonder.

Can wonder lead to discovery?

Yes, wonder often drives the desire to explore and learn.

Do children feel awe and wonder differently than adults?

Children may feel wonder more often, as many experiences are new to them.

Can art provoke wonder?

Absolutely, art often invokes wonder through its creativity and expression.

Can a book inspire both awe and wonder?

Yes, literature can provoke a deep sense of awe and a curiosity that leads to wonder.

Is awe an everyday emotion?

Awe is typically reserved for rare or impactful experiences.

Can a simple act be awe-inspiring?

Yes, sometimes simplicity can inspire awe through its purity or perfection.

Do all cultures experience awe in the same way?

The triggers for awe may vary, but the feeling is a universal human experience.

Can scientific discovery cause awe?

Significant scientific breakthroughs often elicit a feeling of awe.

Is wonder an active or passive state?

Wonder is an active state, involving engagement and inquiry.

Does wonder diminish with age?

Not necessarily; while experiences may become more familiar, the capacity for wonder can remain throughout life.

Can music inspire awe?

Yes, music can evoke a deep sense of awe due to its power or beauty.

Is awe a spiritual experience?

For many, awe has a spiritual component, connecting them to something greater.

Is awe beneficial for health?

Studies suggest that experiencing awe can have positive effects on well-being.

Does nature commonly inspire wonder?

Yes, the natural world is a frequent source of wonder.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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