ma·​ca·​bre | \ mə-ˈkäb How to pronounce macabre (audio) , -ˈkä-brə How to pronounce macabre (audio) , -bər, -ˈkäbrᵊ\

Definition of macabre

1 : having death as a subject : comprising or including a personalized representation of death The macabre dance included a procession of skeletons.
2 : dwelling on the gruesome a macabre presentation of a tragic story
3 : tending to produce horror in a beholder this macabre procession of starving peasants

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Choose the Right Synonym for macabre

ghastly, grisly, gruesome, macabre, lurid mean horrifying and repellent in appearance or aspect. ghastly suggests the terrifying aspects of corpses and ghosts. a ghastly accident grisly and gruesome suggest additionally the results of extreme violence or cruelty. an unusually grisly murder suffered a gruesome death macabre implies a morbid preoccupation with the physical aspects of death. a macabre tale of premature burial lurid adds to gruesome the suggestion of shuddering fascination with violent death and especially with murder. the lurid details of a crime

Where does the word macabre come from?

We trace the origins of macabre to the name of the Book of Maccabees which is included in the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox canons of the Old Testament and in the Protestant Apocrypha. Sections of this biblical text address both the deaths of faithful people asked to renounce their religion and the manner in which the dead should be properly commemorated. The latter includes a discussion of praying for the souls of the dead, which was important in the development of the notion of purgatory and a happy afterlife for those persecuted for their religion. In medieval France, representations of these passages were performed as a procession or dance which became known as the “dance of death” or “dance Maccabee,” which was spelled in several different ways, including danse macabre.

In English, macabre was originally used in reference to this “dance of death” and then gradually became used more broadly, referring to anything grim or gruesome. It has come to be used as a synonym of horrible or distressing, always with a connection to the physical aspects of death and suffering.

Examples of macabre in a Sentence

a macabre story of murder and madness Police discovered a macabre scene inside the house.

Recent Examples on the Web

Anything but macabre, the book and the party celebrated the republic, for all its uncertainties and peculiarities. Ian Malone, Vogue, "Jeff Koons and Monica Lewinsky Attend a Book Party Honoring Accidental Presidents at Ralph Lauren," 3 Apr. 2019 The dark conflicts that drive the score lived in the growls and grimaces of Ma’s cello; so did the scampering flights of macabre humor, everything tightly supported by Muti and the orchestra. John Von Rhein,, "Riccardo Muti and Yo-Yo Ma turn up the heat in an all-Russian program," 15 June 2018 As was his way, the designer took a macabre source, the 1980 horror flick The Shining, which was set in the Overlook hotel, and found a way to make beauty from its ruins. Laird Borrelli-persson, Vogue, "Remembering Alexander McQueen’s Wintry Fall 1999 Overlook Show With Model Frankie Rayder," 24 Dec. 2018 The deliciously macabre events of Part 1 have strained Sabrina's friendship with mortal BFFs Suzie and Roz (Jaz Sinclair), and leads to a bitter breakup with her boyfriend Harvey (Ross Lynch). Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, "Chilling Adventures of Sabrina," 18 Dec. 2018 Yet underneath the show's supernatural forces and macabre storylines lies what Kiernan believes is a kernel of truth. Ella Cerón, Teen Vogue, "Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Broke Kiernan Shipka's Heart — and She's OK With That," 12 Nov. 2018 Needless to say, the building saw a lot of death during that time, and some believe that macabre energy still lingers. Condé Nast Traveler, "8 Most Haunted Cities In America and Why You Should Visit," 18 Oct. 2018 Overall This month is all about the macabre, so don’t be surprised if ghosts start making contact on Friday, October 5 when Venus, the planet of love and beauty, goes retrograde. Aliza Kelly Faragher, Allure, "What Your Sign's October 2018 Horoscope Predictions Mean for You," 30 Sep. 2018 The trailer does appear to invoke more of the themes of the series' acclaimed first season—including what appears to be the revisiting of a macabre mystery investigation that has only deepened over time, as well as a focus on the rural environment. Amanda Mitchell, Marie Claire, "The First 'True Detective' Season 3 Trailer Is Haunting in the Best Way Possible," 27 Aug. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'macabre.' 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 macabre

1889, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for macabre

French, from (danse) macabre dance of death, from Middle French (danse de) Macabré

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Statistics for macabre

Last Updated

7 May 2019

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Time Traveler for macabre

The first known use of macabre was in 1889

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English Language Learners Definition of macabre

: involving death or violence in a way that is strange, frightening, or unpleasant

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More from Merriam-Webster on macabre

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with macabre

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for macabre

Spanish Central: Translation of macabre

Nglish: Translation of macabre for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of macabre for Arabic Speakers

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using a distributed computer network

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