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 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
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."

Example Sentences

a bilious old dog who snaps at everyone
Recent Examples on the Web But her rhetoric can be just as bilious, if not more so. Robin Givhan, Washington Post, 27 Sep. 2022 Today Is the Today — into a bilious noise-rock confection, all rumbling bass, spat-out vocals and rusty-wire guitar. Hank Shteamer, SPIN, 27 Sep. 2022 Now and then something prods it, throws it a bone, and the bilious feeling I experience is surely its dry fuzzy tail flipping from side to side. Claire-louise Bennett, Harper’s Magazine , 17 Aug. 2022 Via social media and email, bilious readers shared stats and articles that purported to show minority groups commit more mass shootings than white people. Los Angeles Times, 1 June 2022 Nevertheless, Strickland builds his own worlds with such a distinctive style — down to the fonts, the bilious shades of green and the textures of the silks — that the viewer can’t help feeling pulled into his crazy maelstrom of quirk. Leslie Felperin, The Hollywood Reporter, 11 Feb. 2022 Beneath the bilious loner is a nostalgic relic of Old Hollywood, a caustically witty observer and, on some level, a real human being. Owen Gleiberman, Variety, 7 Dec. 2021 Tropical Storm Kate is still spinning in the mid Atlantic but its organization is looking bilious. Joe Mario Pedersen, orlandosentinel.com, 31 Aug. 2021 Maybe Zuckerberg envisioned that, in determining whether Trump should return, the board would unroll a litany of bilious Trump posts to justify its ruling. Steven Levy, Wired, 5 May 2021 See More

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.

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

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Dictionary Entries Near bilious

Cite this Entry

“Bilious.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/bilious. Accessed 28 Nov. 2022.

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

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