bilious

adjective

bil·​ious ˈbil-yəs How to pronounce bilious (audio)
1
a
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 1a)
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 yellowSinclair Lewis
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. Such a personality may also be described as unreasonable, peevish, or ill-tempered, as typified by Charlotte Brontë in her 1849 novel, Shirley: "These two men, of hard, bilious natures both, rarely came into contact but they chafed each other’s moods."

Examples of bilious in a Sentence

a bilious old dog who snaps at everyone
Recent Examples on the Web Color is a bilious miasma, golden tones sliding into flashes of brightness that collapse into queasy hues. Christopher Knight, Los Angeles Times, 20 Oct. 2023 The role of the cranky academic could easily be a stock character, but Giamatti invests the role with bilious wit as well as a few fleeting glimpses of vulnerability. Stephen Farber, The Hollywood Reporter, 3 Sep. 2019 The only act that still holds our attention is deranged Trump, the bilious conspiracy theorist immortalized in Sarah Cooper videos. Walter Shapiro, The New Republic, 28 Aug. 2020 Here, he’s played with the right level of bilious discomfort by Paul Giamatti, and the writing-directing team Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini center him in a self-aware biopic, one that humorously wonders why such a resolute curmudgeon became a minor American celebrity in the 1980s. David Sims, The Atlantic, 26 Feb. 2022 Why? The proud, efficient and bilious store manager, Pauline (Eva Kaminsky), is all business; her upswept hair is a pincushion of pens. Jesse Green, New York Times, 21 Feb. 2023 At least it's well-acted, with Tim Blake Nelson making the most of his bilious dialogue. A.a. Dowd, Chron, 26 Oct. 2022 No, Caroline always contained the image of a toppled and beheaded Confederate memorial, a Johnny Reb statue turning a bilious copper green in the wet Louisiana air. Helen Shaw, Vulture, 27 Oct. 2021 The Finnish cocktail is usually a mix of gin and grapefruit soda, sort of a more bilious Paloma. Vulture, 29 Sep. 2022 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'bilious.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Middle French bilieux, from Latin biliosus, from bilis

First Known Use

1541, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of bilious was in 1541

Podcast

Dictionary Entries Near bilious

Cite this Entry

“Bilious.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/bilious. Accessed 27 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition

bilious

adjective
bil·​ious ˈbil-yəs How to pronounce bilious (audio)
1
a
: of or relating to bile
b
: marked by or suffering from a disorder of the liver
2
: of an irritable disposition
biliously adverb
biliousness noun

Medical Definition

bilious

adjective
bil·​ious ˈbil-yəs How to pronounce bilious (audio)
1
: of or relating to bile
2
: marked by or affected with disordered liver function and especially excessive secretion of bile
biliousness noun

More from Merriam-Webster on bilious

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!