en·​nui | \ ˌän-ˈwē How to pronounce ennui (audio) \

Definition of ennui

: a feeling of weariness and dissatisfaction : boredom

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Did You Know?

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
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Recent Examples on the Web Charyn’s Salinger is an empty vessel, collecting ennui and experiences, despairing for some way to clarify it all in fiction. Washington Post, "By the end of 2020, we were supposed to have more J.D. Salinger. Instead we have ‘Sergeant Salinger.’," 31 Dec. 2020 Of course, Murphy said, her Tipitina’s model is an antidote to COVID-19 ennui. Doug Maccash, NOLA.com, "New Orleans music fan builds LEGO Tipitina’s to honor good ol’ days before coronavirus," 20 Jan. 2021 The students, however, were mired in tech annoyance and ennui. Sandra Upson, Wired, "Covid, Schools, and the High-Stakes Experiment No One Wanted," 18 Jan. 2021 The film is a study of ennui made riveting by Ceylan’s delicate camerawork—awake to both the city’s glowering beauty and the minor calibrations of a moody face—and that staple of farce, the yoking of opposites. Yasmine Seale, Harpers Magazine, "Slow Burn," 5 Jan. 2021 And while O’Connor is splendid as the resentful Charles, Erin Doherty’s underused Princess Anne practically demands her own show, so delicious is her haughty, insubordinate ennui. Graham Hillard, Washington Examiner, "Queen and country," 10 Dec. 2020 The ennui of endless days, week and months at home is understandable. Washington Post Staff, Washington Post, "As stay-at-home restrictions rise, here are ways to cope," 2 Dec. 2020 My social-media feeds are full of individuals regarding their own culinary ennui with something adjacent to awe. Helen Rosner, The New Yorker, "The Joylessness of Cooking," 25 Nov. 2020 There was even a teen room, where a handful of children sat on folding chairs and regarded a Wurlitzer in sullen ennui. Joan Didion, Harper's Magazine, "Fathers, Sons, Screaming Eagles," 24 Nov. 2020

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

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First Known Use of ennui

1732, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for ennui

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

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Last Updated

18 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Ennui.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ennui. Accessed 27 Feb. 2021.

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English Language Learners Definition of ennui

: a lack of spirit, enthusiasm, or interest

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More from Merriam-Webster on ennui

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for ennui

Nglish: Translation of ennui for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of ennui for Arabic Speakers

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