en·​nui ˌän-ˈwē How to pronounce ennui (audio)
: a feeling of weariness and dissatisfaction : boredom

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The French loanword ennui comes from the very same Late Latin word that gave us annoyinodiare ("to make loathsome"). We borrowed ennui several centuries after absorbing annoy into the language. Ennui deals more with boredom than irritation - and a somewhat specific sort of boredom at that. It generally refers to the feeling of jadedness that can result from living a life of too much ease. The poet Charles Lloyd described it well in his 1823 Stanzas to Ennui when he referred to that world-weary sensation as a "soul-destroying fiend" which visits with its "pale unrest / The chambers of the human breast / Where too much happiness hath fixed its home."

Examples of ennui in a Sentence

When the antiproton was discovered … it sent a wave of ennui through the physics community. Not that its discovery was unimportant, but on the basis of Dirac's theory, everybody expected it. Roger G. Newton, The Truth of Science, 1997
Chauncey and I were keen enough about our aesthetic solution to the ennui of war to try to proselytize others. He organized discussion groups with the crew; I took volunteers to visit landmarks … Louis Auchincloss, "Atlantic War," in Authors at Sea, ed. Robert Shenk1997
The attendant outside was standing on tennis balls, exercising the soles of her feet, her body swaying back and forth with the ennui of jelly. Edna O'Brien, New Yorker, 17 June 1991
Thus the days of life are consumed, one by one, without an object beyond the present moment; ever flying from the ennui of that, yet carrying it with us … Thomas Jefferson, in a letter dated 7 Feb. 1787 Thomas Jefferson: Writings1984
the kind of ennui that comes from having too much time on one's hands and too little will to find something productive to do
Recent Examples on the Web These sneakers are electric in their defiance of ennui. Nicolaia Rips, ELLE, 14 Aug. 2023 The rest of his family isn't faring much better—his wife, Imelda, has turned to hocking her jewelry and having illicit affairs to deal with her ennui, while his children, Cass and PJ, have turned to binge-drinking and running away from home as their solutions to their general misfortune. Time, 31 July 2023 Yet, despite these flashy infographics enticing us at every turn, Excel endures as a symbol of the banal, synonymous with Office Space’s TPS reports—the resigned territory of listless spreadsheet entry and workplace ennui. WIRED, 28 June 2023 For some adults, a kind of fatalistic ennui has set in. Anastacia Galouchka, Washington Post, 21 June 2023 Tonally, the eight-episode series teeters between slasher territory and the humor of domestic ennui. Nina Metz, Chicago Tribune, 8 June 2023 Flailing through twentysomething ennui is not typically fodder for a feel-good movie, and Frances Ha has plenty of moments that will make some viewers cringe in recognition (or just secondhand embarrassment). Jesse Hassenger, Men's Health, 12 Jan. 2023 The result is ongoing discomfort and degeneration, more crappy meds, continued isolation, weight gain and a general feeling of ennui and malaise. Marina Gomberg, The Salt Lake Tribune, 5 Nov. 2021 Still, the second season was not a perfect one; For All Mankind never figures out what to do with Karen, and rather than reduce her role, the show buries her in ennui and then gives her the absolute worst possible source of conflict by having her sleep with her friend’s son. Kathryn Vanarendonk, Vulture, 23 Apr. 2021 See More

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

Word History


French, from Old French enui annoyance, from enuier to vex, from Late Latin inodiare to make loathsome — more at annoy

First Known Use

1732, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of ennui was in 1732


Dictionary Entries Near ennui

Cite this Entry

“Ennui.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ennui. Accessed 26 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


en·​nui ˈän-ˈwē How to pronounce ennui (audio)
: a lack of spirit, enthusiasm, or satisfaction : boredom

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