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 One of a handful of songs on Usher that transcends its R&B and new jack swing cosplay and sounds true to teenage ennui. 40. Dylan Green, Vulture, 20 Feb. 2024 Yes, those crisp Central Park views (May lives in the San Remo) have long been known to bring on ennui. Dwight Garner, New York Times, 27 May 2024 Anton Chekhov’s tragicomic 1897 play, about unrequited love and existential ennui, has been inescapable in recent years. Patrick Ryan, USA TODAY, 25 Apr. 2024 After almost two decades with iPhones, the public seems to be experiencing a collective ennui with digital life. Kyle Chayka, The New Yorker, 10 Apr. 2024 See all Example Sentences for ennui 

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 22 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition


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

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