mel·​an·​cho·​lia | \ ˌme-lən-ˈkō-lē-ə How to pronounce melancholia (audio) \

Definition of melancholia

1 : severe depression characterized especially by profound sadness and despair Tense, irritable, I crashed into a fit of melancholia and found myself crying over inconsequential problems.— Susan Wood A depressed Johnson was not the father figure that Boswell, himself prey to crippling bouts of melancholia and insecurity, wanted to celebrate.— Brooke Allen
2 : a sad quality or mood : melancholy There's a touching melancholia to his voice …— Ralph Novak Like Wallace's breakthrough novel, "Infinite Jest," "The Pale King" is pervaded by an air of melancholia, an acute sense of loss.— Tom McCarthy

Other Words from melancholia

melancholiac \ ˌme-​lən-​ˈkō-​lē-​ˌak How to pronounce melancholia (audio) \ noun

Did you know?

Melancholia traces back to Greek melan‑ ("black, dark") and cholē ("bile"). Medical practitioners once adhered to the system of humors—bodily fluids that included black bile, yellow bile, blood, and phlegm. An imbalance of these humors was thought to lead to disorders of the mind and body. One suffering from an excess of black bile (believed to be secreted by the kidneys or spleen) could become sullen and unsociable—liable to anger, irritability, brooding, and depression. Today, doctors no longer ascribe physical and mental disorders to disruptions of the four humors, but the word melancholia is still used in psychiatry (it is identified as a "subtype" of clinical depression in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) and as a general term for despondency. The older term ­melancholy, ultimately from the same Greek roots, is historically a synonym of melancholia but now more often refers to a sad or pensive mood.

Examples of melancholia in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The limited series is atmospheric, evoking the melancholia of the not-quite-adult space in which Rooney’s characters usually exist. Shirley Li, The Atlantic, 19 May 2022 For those of us who have loved Mann's incredible mix of melancholia and pop mastery for decades, somehow that sentiment is not the least bit surprising. Steve Baltin, Forbes, 10 Nov. 2021 Brett Favre had taken over as the quarterback in 1991 and allowed the Packers to escape from their post-Lombardi melancholia. Star Tribune, 31 July 2021 For the vanquished, an inevitable melancholia is tinged with optimism. Robin George Andrews, Scientific American, 3 June 2021 The melancholia that courses through this movie is of a piece with its minimalism, notable in the concision of the individual scenes and the overall running time. Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times, 30 Apr. 2021 Racial melancholia also turns our attention to how having a proximity to whiteness has levied the unrecognizability of Asian pain and injury. Tim Chan, Rolling Stone, 23 Apr. 2021 Ronan’s performance grows steadily more luminous as Charlotte’s melancholia recedes and her natural vigor and lust for life reemerge. Justin Chang Film Critic, Los Angeles Times, 12 Nov. 2020 No, the melancholia that gripped Democrats was rooted in something deeper than wins and losses or control of a particular branch of government. Gilbert Garcia,, 6 Nov. 2020 See More

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

First Known Use of melancholia

circa 1553, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for melancholia

borrowed from New Latin, going back to Late Latin, "preponderance of black bile" — more at melancholy entry 1

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The first known use of melancholia was circa 1553

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Last Updated

24 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Melancholia.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for melancholia


mel·​an·​cho·​lia | \ ˌmel-ən-ˈkō-lē-ə How to pronounce melancholia (audio) \

Medical Definition of melancholia

: severe depression characterized especially by profound sadness and despair


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