archaic : of a sunburned appearance
archaic : of a gloomy appearance or disposition

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Adust comes from Latin adustus, the past participle of adūrere ("to set fire to"), a verb formed from the Latin prefix ad- and the verb ūrere ("to burn"). It entered the English language in the early 15th century as a medical term related to the four bodily humors—black bile, blood, phlegm, and yellow bile—which were believed at the time to determine a person's health and temperament. Adust was used to describe a condition of the humors in which they supposedly became heated or combusted. Adust black bile in particular was believed to be a source of melancholy. The association with melancholy gave rise to a sense of adust meaning "of a gloomy appearance or disposition," but that sense is now considered archaic.

Word History


Middle English "treated with intense heat (of medical ingredients), altered by body heat (of humors)," borrowed from Medieval Latin adustus, going back to Latin, "burnt, scorched," from past participle of adūrere" to scorch, burn up, cauterize," from ad- ad- + ūrere (past participle ustus) "to expose to fire, burn, scorch," going back to Indo-European *h1eu̯s- "burn (transitive), singe," whence Greek heúō, heúein "to scorch" (with presumed metathesis of h), Sanskrit óṣati "(s/he) burns," uṣṭáḥ "burnt up"

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of adust was in the 15th century


Dictionary Entries Near adust

Cite this Entry

“Adust.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/adust. Accessed 25 Sep. 2023.

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