When is a word full of humor yet far from humorous? 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, unsociable, and liable to 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 as a general term for despondency.
Examples of melancholia in a Sentence
Recent Examples on the WebHarnessing Nordic melancholia to laugh at the misery of capitalist malaise, Finnish master Aki Kaurismäki makes movies about people who don’t say much but feel plenty.—Carlos Aguilar, Los Angeles Times, 22 Nov. 2023 The glimpse of her life as a mother and her melancholia come into play later in the show’s run.—Yvonne Villarreal, Los Angeles Times, 13 Oct. 2023 Suffering from a wan melancholia that sits strangely on so strapping a dude, Nick eventually confesses his break-up, which rather ruins the mood of laddish hi-jinks.—Jessica Kiang, Variety, 28 Sep. 2023 Its self-lacerating melancholia never dips into self-indulgence, instead digging into the shades of gray that define a person’s bleakest days.—Maura Johnston, Rolling Stone, 25 Aug. 2023 Plant Albarn in any scenic location and the local culture, economy, and ecology seep in, mixing with his penchant for classic English melancholia and cascading over intricate productions in which international sensibilities collide.—Craig Jenkins, Vulture, 21 July 2023 Almost a century later, the debates chronicled in Bruno Schulz, and even the book itself, feel somewhat neurotic—a perfect example of the melancholia that Freud described as mourning gone wrong.—Adam Kirsch, The New Republic, 6 Apr. 2023 Cai, a correspondent for Vanity Fair, accomplishes this in part through the vacillating tone of Audrey’s narration, which swings wildly between hypervigilant repulsion — toward both the rural and the Chinese American aspects of her past — and self-sabotaging melancholia.—Jenny Wu, Washington Post, 24 Jan. 2023 Ostrander writes about how the 2011 Wallow Fire, still Arizona's largest, invoked a resurgence of the term solastalgia, as interviews with survivors unveiled layers of climate grief and environmental melancholia for the sense of home that had been lost.—Joan Meiners, The Arizona Republic, 11 Aug. 2022 See More
These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'melancholia.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.
borrowed from New Latin, going back to Late Latin, "preponderance of black bile" — more at melancholy entry 1