pes·​si·​mism | \ ˈpe-sə-ˌmi-zəm How to pronounce pessimism (audio) also ˈpe-zə- \

Definition of pessimism

1 : an inclination to emphasize adverse aspects, conditions, and possibilities or to expect the worst possible outcome
2a : the doctrine that reality is essentially evil
b : the doctrine that evil overbalances happiness in life

Examples of pessimism in a Sentence

Although the economy shows signs of improving, a sense of pessimism remains.
Recent Examples on the Web Once again, optimism outweighed pessimism, and stocks popped. - Investing Reimagined, Forbes, 27 May 2021 And in some kind of magical sleight-of-hand that converts dark pessimism into cutting wit, Shepard’s stories always manage to be funny. Jeff Goodell, Rolling Stone, 26 May 2021 In the past year, economists have alternated between excessive optimism and pessimism. Anthony Debarros, WSJ, 11 Apr. 2021 His songs have long balanced wishful thinking with an encroaching pessimism—the toxicity of a world that crushes idealists. Sheldon Pearce, The New Yorker, 18 May 2021 Those results suggest deep pessimism about downtown Portland, the city’s economic, cultural and transportation hub. oregonlive, 14 May 2021 Research shows eating foods that include them could halve feelings of pessimism and sadness. Cathy Garrard, Good Housekeeping, 10 May 2021 In a time of great pessimism about race relations generally, whites have moved closer to blacks in their views of police treatment of blacks, but some substantial differences in outlook remain. Karlyn Bowman, Forbes, 7 Apr. 2021 Texas’ quarterback dilemma provides both optimism and pessimism for Longhorn fans. Dallas News, 7 May 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'pessimism.' 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 pessimism

1815, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for pessimism

borrowed from French pessimisme, from Latin pessimus "worst" + French -isme -ism, formed by analogy with optimisme optimism; Latin pessimus, probably going back to *pedisamos, derivative (with -isamos, superlative suffix, going back to Italic & Celtic *-ism̥mos) of *ped-, extracted from *ped-tu- "a fall, falling" (whence Latin pessum "to the bottom, to destruction"), verbal noun from an Indo-European base *ped- "step, fall," whence, with varying ablaut grades, Old English gefetan "to fall," Old Church Slavic padǫ, pasti, Sanskrit padyate "(s/he) falls, perishes"

Note: The Indo-European verbal base *ped- is generally taken to be a derivative of the noun *pōd-, ped- "foot"; see foot entry 1.

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Time Traveler for pessimism

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The first known use of pessimism was in 1815

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Statistics for pessimism

Last Updated

6 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Pessimism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 13 Jun. 2021.

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More Definitions for pessimism



English Language Learners Definition of pessimism

: a feeling or belief that bad things will happen in the future : a feeling or belief that what you hope for will not happen


pes·​si·​mism | \ ˈpe-sə-ˌmi-zəm How to pronounce pessimism (audio) \

Kids Definition of pessimism

: a feeling or belief that things are usually bad or that bad things will happen


pes·​si·​mism | \ ˈpes-ə-ˌmiz-əm also ˈpez- \

Medical Definition of pessimism

: an inclination to emphasize adverse aspects, conditions, and possibilities or to expect the worst possible outcome

Other Words from pessimism

pessimistic \ ˌpes-​ə-​ˈmis-​tik also ˌpez-​ \ adjective


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