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

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Other Words from melancholia

melancholiac \ ˌme-​lən-​ˈkō-​lē-​ˌak How to pronounce melancholiac (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 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 Think of your current melancholia as akin to sweat equity. Shawn Windsor, Detroit Free Press, "Detroit sports are terrible. But one day, it will make winning that much sweeter," 6 Dec. 2019 And finally, there is the film’s tone, a kind of low-key melancholia that is the opposite of a big, buzzy crime movie and its accompanying social-media traction that streaming services crave. Steven Zeitchik, Washington Post, "Netflix seeks to ‘disrupt’ the world of high-end film with ‘The Irishman’," 27 Sep. 2019 Our inability to comprehend the reason for our melancholia pushes us further into our subconscious depths, and manifests as a kind of permanent mourning. Hua Hsu, The New Yorker, "The Stories We Tell, and Don’t Tell, About Asian-American Lives," 17 July 2019 Any aggression Madonna feels about her divorce—on this album, at least—is flushed out by melancholia. Christopher Rosa, Glamour, "Madonna Released the Ultimate Divorce Album 6 Years Ago—You Just Didn't Listen," 30 Nov. 2018 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

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.

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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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Time Traveler for melancholia

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The first known use of melancholia was circa 1553

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Cite this Entry

“Melancholia.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for melancholia


How to pronounce melancholia (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of melancholia

old-fashioned + literary : a feeling of sadness and depression


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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