eldritch

adjective

el·​dritch ˈel-drich How to pronounce eldritch (audio)
: strange or unnatural especially in a way that inspires fear : weird, eerie
And the woman, whose voice had risen to a kind of eldritch singsong, turned with a skip, and was gone.Robert Louis Stevenson
… the film works its whimsically eldritch spell through inspired casting, brilliant editing, and subtly astonishing special effects …Ty Burr

Did you know?

Curse, cobweb, witch, ghost, and even Halloween—all of these potentially spooky words have roots in Old English. Eldritch, although less common, is another, hailing from a time when otherworldly beings were commonly thought to inhabit the earth. The word dates back to the 16th century and may have its origin in the Middle English word elfriche, meaning “fairyland.” (The two components of elfriche—“elf” and “riche”—come from the Old English words ælf, “elf,” and rīce, “kingdom.”) Nowadays, eldritch is used to describe things that are eerie, weird, or frightful. You may also recognize the word as the name of the popular video game Eldritch, inspired by the stories of H.P. Lovecraft, who often used the word in his horror fiction. Or perhaps you've encountered it in the role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons.

Examples of eldritch in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Listen here Westside Fairytales Demons, desperate souls, and eldritch horrors. Savannah Eadens, The Courier-Journal, 20 Apr. 2020 The 1906 earthquake toppled or knocked askew thousands of tombstones and statues, increasing the cemeteries’ eldritch appearance. Gary Kamiya, San Francisco Chronicle, 30 Mar. 2018 Just as a graphic-novel presentation may ease a young reader’s access to the eldritch world of Poe, so art books for children use informality to make fine art accessible to the potential young connoisseur. Meghan Cox Gurdon, WSJ, 28 July 2017

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'eldritch.' 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

perhaps from Middle English *elfriche fairyland, from Middle English elf + riche kingdom, from Old English rīce — more at rich

First Known Use

1508, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of eldritch was in 1508

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Dictionary Entries Near eldritch

Cite this Entry

“Eldritch.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/eldritch. Accessed 24 Feb. 2024.

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