eldritch

adjective
el·​dritch | \ˈel-drich \

Definition of eldritch 

: 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

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Did You Know?

Curse, "cobweb," "witch," "ghost," and even "Halloween" - all of these potentially spooky words have roots in Old English. "Eldritch," also, comes from a time when otherworldly beings were commonly thought to inhabit the earth. The word is about 500 years old and believed to have come from Middle English "elfriche," meaning "fairyland." The two components of "elfriche" - "elf" and "riche" - come from the Old English "ælf" and "rīce" (words which meant, literally, "elf kingdom"). Robert Louis Stevenson wasn't scared of "eldritch." He used the term in his novel Kidnapped: "'The curse on him and his house, byre and stable, man, guest, and master, wife, miss, or bairn -- black, black be their fall!' -The woman, whose voice had risen to a kind of eldritch sing-song, turned with a skip, and was gone."

Examples of eldritch in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

The 1906 earthquake toppled or knocked askew thousands of tombstones and statues, increasing the cemeteries’ eldritch appearance. Gary Kamiya, San Francisco Chronicle, "Lively, lengthy battle over where to bury SF’s dead," 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, "The Best New Children’s Books," 28 July 2017

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

First Known Use of eldritch

1508, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for eldritch

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

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The first known use of eldritch was in 1508

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