bil·​ious | \ ˈbil-yəs How to pronounce bilious (audio) \

Definition of bilious

1a biology : of or relating to a yellow or greenish fluid that is secreted by the liver and that aids especially in the emulsification and absorption of fats : of or relating to bile (see bile sense 1b)
b biology : marked by or suffering from liver dysfunction and especially excessive secretion of bile a bilious attack a bilious patient
c : appearing as if affected by a bilious disorder a sickly bilious face
2 : of or indicative of a peevish ill-natured disposition bilious commentary her bilious humor
3 : sickeningly unpleasant the bilious weather with clapboards painted red and bilious yellow— Sinclair Lewis

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Other Words from bilious

biliously adverb
biliousness noun

Did You Know?

Bilious is one of several words whose origins trace to the old belief that four bodily humors (black bile, yellow bile, phlegm, and blood) control temperament. Just like phlegmatic ("of a slow and stolid phlegm-driven character"), melancholy ("experiencing dejection associated with black bile"), and sanguine ("of a cheerful, blood-based disposition"), bilious suggests a personality associated with an excess of one of the humors - in this case, yellow bile. Bilious, which first appeared in English in the mid-1500s, derives from the Middle French bilieux, which in turn traces to bilis, Latin for bile. In the past, "bile" was also called choler, which gives us choleric, a synonym of bilious.

Examples of bilious in a Sentence

a bilious old dog who snaps at everyone
Recent Examples on the Web But a person expiring between the ages of one and 44 years is more likely to fall under what the charts render a yawning wedge of bilious turquoise: the color of dying by accident. New York Times, "What Makes an American Hero? (Or a Canadian One?)," 12 Dec. 2019 Guided by the tastes of critics and academics, the museums and galleries fill up with the ugly, the sordid, the cruel, the bilious, the strange. Kyle Smith, National Review, "Now Renoir Is Problematic," 27 Aug. 2019 Green is nice, but not in the bilious avatars of Excel and FaceTime and Google Sheets. Josephine Livingstone, The New Republic, "Why Is Everything So Hideous?," 2 May 2018 The themes seemed familiar, the outsider's distrust of the systems and structures of the state, a more bilious paranoia. Michael Paterniti, GQ, "Dragonman, the Man Who Sells “People-Hunting Guns”," 7 Mar. 2018 At that point, Trump’s bilious rhetoric hadn’t been validated by any primary wins, and no credible person was willing to risk his or her reputation to support a polarizing bigot with no evident path to victory. Justin Peters, Slate Magazine, "Firing Jeffrey Lord Doesn’t Fix CNN’s Jeffrey Lord Problem," 11 Aug. 2017 Those who only know Simon Heffer from his somewhat bilious writings in the Daily Mail might be tempted to ignore his book on this period. The Economist, "The decadent late-Victorian and Edwardian era," 7 Oct. 2017 Another Harvard law professor, Noah Feldman, argues that the president’s slanderous accusation that Barack Obama tapped his phones in Trump Tower constitutes an impeachable offence, along with Trump’s bilious defamation of the press. Jacob Weisberg, Slate Magazine, "The Only Way Trump Gets Impeached," 19 May 2017 And may this be a lesson to never make contact with your sibling’s bilious male offspring again. Richard Lawson,, "Jennifer Lawrence’s Nephews Strike Again," 19 July 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'bilious.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of bilious

1541, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for bilious

Middle French bilieux, from Latin biliosus, from bilis

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Time Traveler for bilious

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The first known use of bilious was in 1541

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Cite this Entry

“Bilious.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 1 Oct. 2020.

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More Definitions for bilious


How to pronounce bilious (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of bilious

: having or causing a sick feeling in the stomach : feeling or causing nausea
: angry or bad-tempered
: very unpleasant to look at


bil·​ious | \ ˈbil-yəs How to pronounce bilious (audio) \

Medical Definition of bilious

1 : of or relating to bile
2 : marked by or affected with disordered liver function and especially excessive secretion of bile

Other Words from bilious

biliousness noun

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