mel·​an·​cho·​lia | \ˌme-lən-ˈkō-lē-ə \

Definition of melancholia 

: a mental condition and especially a manic-depressive condition characterized by extreme depression, bodily complaints, and often hallucinations and delusions

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from melancholia

melancholiac \-​lē-​ˌak \ 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 a "subtype" of clinical depression in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) and as a general term for despondency.

Examples of melancholia in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

Psychotic melancholia sounds horrifying, like a German band that plays an obscure subgenre of death metal. Yusef Roach, Los Angeles Magazine, "The Communal Experience of Going to the Symphony for the First Time," 31 May 2018 This familiar premise leads to a twist: Instead of adrenaline rush suspense scenes, this plot languishes in mundane melancholia. Jason Zinoman, New York Times, "Review: In ‘The Night Eats the World,’ Zombie Apocalypse Now, Again," 12 July 2018 In the London home of Vijay Mallya, a self-exiled liquor tycoon, Mr Crabtree finds a golden toilet seat and melancholia. The Economist, "The tycoons who are powering India’s rise," 5 July 2018 Although run-down, the beautiful architecture of historic buildings creates a mesmerizing melancholia. Mosha Lundström Halbert, Vogue, "The Latina Cool Girl’s Guide to Mexico City," 4 June 2018 Basically, a Lars Kepler thriller stops only to fixate on Joona’s eyes, which distractingly transfix any number of characters who take in this tall hunk of melancholia. Ken Tucker, New York Times, "‘The Silence of the Lambs’ Goes Nordic Noir," 13 Apr. 2018 For two and a half verses, Chance bathes in his melancholia. Jon Pareles, New York Times, "The Playlist: Hear Beyoncé Join ‘Mi Gente,’ Plus 9 More New Songs," 29 Sep. 2017 Elegant melancholia isn’t enough for the National anymore. Jon Pareles, New York Times, "The National Gives Its Sound a Jolt on ‘Sleep Well Beast’," 6 Sep. 2017 En route to his nervous breakdown in 1969, a sublime melancholia crept into his playing. Philip Montoro, Chicago Reader, "Cheer-Accident mastermind Thymme Jones on the upside of Herb Alpert’s nervous breakdown," 22 Aug. 2017

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.

See More

First Known Use of melancholia

1607, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for melancholia

New Latin, from Late Latin, melancholy

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about melancholia

Share melancholia

Listen to Our Podcast about melancholia

Statistics for melancholia

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for melancholia

The first known use of melancholia was in 1607

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for melancholia



English Language Learners Definition of melancholia

: a feeling of sadness and depression


mel·​an·​cho·​lia | \ˌmel-ən-ˈkō-lē-ə \

Medical Definition of melancholia 

: a mental condition and especially a manic-depressive condition characterized by extreme depression, psychomotor agitation, and often hallucinations and delusions

More from Merriam-Webster on melancholia

Nglish: Translation of melancholia for Spanish Speakers Encyclopedia article about melancholia

Comments on melancholia

What made you want to look up melancholia? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a soft lustrous wool fabric with mohair

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Late Autumn 2018 Words of the Day Quiz

  • frosted-autumn-leaves
  • Which is a synonym of yahoo?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!