melancholy

1 of 2

noun

mel·​an·​choly ˈme-lən-ˌkä-lē How to pronounce melancholy (audio)
plural melancholies
1
a
: depression of spirits : dejection
great outbursts of creativity alternate with feelings of extreme melancholyBrenda Lane Richardson
Mitchell sounds utterly alone in her melancholy, turning the sadness into tender art.Rolling Stone
b
: a pensive mood
a fine romantic kind of a melancholy on the fading of the yearRichard Holmes
One white arm and hand drooped over the side of the chair, and her whole pose and figure spoke of an absorbing melancholy.Arthur Conan Doyle
2
b
archaic : an abnormal state attributed to an excess of black bile and characterized by irascibility or depression
c
archaic : black bile

melancholy

2 of 2

adjective

1
a
: suggestive or expressive of sadness or depression of mind or spirit
sang in a melancholy voice
b
: causing or tending to cause sadness or depression of mind or spirit : dismal
a melancholy thought
2
a
: depressed in spirits : dejected, sad
b

Examples of melancholy in a Sentence

Noun the bleakness of winter sometimes gives me cause for melancholy Adjective A melancholy lesson of advancing years is the realization that you can't make old friends. Christopher Hitchens, Harper's, June 1999
He has a snarled mop of spiky black hair, melancholy circles around his eyes, and a tiny Cupid's-bow mouth. Pauline Kael, New Yorker, 17 Dec. 1990
I see your mournful party in my mind's eye under every varying circumstance of the day;  … the efforts to talk, the frequent summons to melancholy orders and cares, and poor Edward, restless in misery, going from one room to the other … Jane Austen, letter, 24 Oct. 1808
She was in a melancholy mood. He became quiet and melancholy as the hours slowly passed. See More
Recent Examples on the Web
Noun
To live the goth lifestyle is to reject the mainstream and embrace a bit of darkness and melancholy. Kevin Jacobsen, EW.com, 21 Feb. 2024 The film is laced with dry humor but also poignancy and notes of melancholy. David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter, 19 Feb. 2024 Rosenthal’s translation draws out these poems’ shades of melancholy and whimsy, along with the slant and irregular rhymes that contribute to their uncanny humor. The New Yorker, 19 Feb. 2024 Her performance struck a perfect balance of electricity and melancholy, emitting every ounce of energy the Queen of Rock displayed onstage and the internal tug of war with the emotional challenges of her private life. Rick Mauch, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 8 Feb. 2024 Listen to each proclamation of mirth and melancholy, love and hate. Merve Emre, The New Yorker, 29 Jan. 2024 Blue is the color of melancholy but also of its mortal enemy, the very thing that follows the storm clouds of loneliness and despair: which is hope, which is the chance to begin again, which is a clear, blue sky. Emily Leibert, Allure, 25 Jan. 2024 This is heartfelt balladry spotlighting his almost lute-like virtuosity on guitar (both 6- and 12-string) and bouzouki (delicate, fragile, nothing Zorba-esque) and his mix of melancholy and introspection embodied in his earthy singing. Steve Hochman, SPIN, 3 Jan. 2024 Residente is looking back at his storied career with nostalgia and melancholy. Tomás Mier, Rolling Stone, 11 Jan. 2024
Adjective
A week before Porno for Pyros hit the road, Farrell is melancholy. Pamela Chelin, Los Angeles Times, 20 Feb. 2024 The more melancholy take arrived later in the year. Chris Vognar, Los Angeles Times, 6 Feb. 2024 The lines of the song had always followed the same slow, melancholy arcs. Caleb Crain, The New Yorker, 4 Dec. 2023 Eleven protesters were injured, and a policewoman was killed: all the spokes of Matar’s lingering, melancholy new novel connect to this transforming event. The New Yorker, 24 Jan. 2024 Parker is lovely, dignifying even the rote moments like Doris flipping through a family photo album or watching a childhood home video, her melancholy edging into guilt. David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter, 23 Jan. 2024 Yet these patient, contemplative, quietly rapturous studies for piano and synthesizer are not mournful—at least, no more than the rest of the composer’s gorgeously melancholy oeuvre, which spans more than four decades. Pitchfork, 14 Dec. 2023 After all, his classic tailoring has shades of Armani and Saint Laurent, and there’s no one whose somber style chimes more with the melancholy, fatalistic mood of the moment than his. Radhika Seth, Vogue, 16 Dec. 2023 The melancholy ambience of Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch’s synth score, the saturated hues and delicate underlighting of Jamie D. Ramsay’s cinematography and, above all, the faultless conviction of the performances compel not just our attention but our awestruck belief. Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times, 20 Dec. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'melancholy.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Noun

Middle English malencolie, melancolie "black bile, preponderance or excess of black bile, state (as anger or sorrow) produced by excessive black bile," borrowed from Anglo-French & Late Latin; Anglo-French malencolie, melencolie, borrowed from Late Latin melancholia (Medieval Latin malencolia, by association with the prefix mal- mal-), borrowed from Greek melancholía, from melan-, athematic variant of melano- melano- + cholḗ "bile" + -ia -ia entry 1 — more at gall entry 1

Adjective

Middle English malincolie, melancolie, from attributive use of malencolie melancholy entry 1, probably reinforced by construal of -ly as an adjective suffix

First Known Use

Noun

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2b

Adjective

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of melancholy was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near melancholy

Cite this Entry

“Melancholy.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/melancholy. Accessed 3 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition

melancholy

1 of 2 noun
mel·​an·​choly ˈmel-ən-ˌkäl-ē How to pronounce melancholy (audio)
plural melancholies
: a sad or gloomy mood or condition

melancholy

2 of 2 adjective
1
: depressed in spirits : dejected, sad
2
: seriously thoughtful
3
: causing sadness : dismal
a melancholy thought
Etymology

Noun

Middle English malencolie "melancholy," from early French melancolie (same meaning), from Latin melancholia (same meaning), from Greek melancholia "melancholy," literally, "black bile," from melan-, melas "black" and cholē "bile"; so called from the ancient belief that the condition was caused by an excess of what was thought to be black bile in the body — related to choleric, melanin see Word History at humor

Medical Definition

melancholy

noun
mel·​an·​choly ˈmel-ən-ˌkäl-ē How to pronounce melancholy (audio)
plural melancholies
1
: depression or dejection of spirits
also : melancholia
2
archaic
a
: an abnormal state attributed to an excess of black bile and characterized by irascibility or depression
melancholy adjective

More from Merriam-Webster on melancholy

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