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 That in turn could hold consumer pessimism in check, keeping fear of stagflation from becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. Bernhard Warner, Fortune, 2 Aug. 2022 Over the first half of the year, as the market plummeted and pessimism reigned, investors lowered their expectations, the strategists said. Max Zahn, ABC News, 2 Aug. 2022 Earnings estimates for 2023 declined again this week, with pessimism growing around the state of the global economy. Bill Stone, Forbes, 1 Aug. 2022 Mounting pessimism has made consumers more reluctant to spend, particularly on more expensive items whose purchase can be delayed. Paul Hannon, WSJ, 29 July 2022 Spiraling economic pessimism has undercut Mr. Biden’s approval ratings and contributed to Democrats’ fears of losing at least one chamber of Congress in the midterm elections. Jim Tankersley, New York Times, 27 July 2022 James somewhat reluctantly mediates between his longtime friend and the Thai officials, tempering Rick’s pessimism with his own optimistic sentiments. Lovia Gyarkye, The Hollywood Reporter, 25 July 2022 This pessimism overall in this poll showed up everywhere. NBC News, 24 July 2022 But Mounk has actually manufactured that pessimism for himself, by conflating the left’s criticism of past and present with its alleged fatalism about the future. Ian Beacock, The New Republic, 13 July 2022 See More

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.

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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The first known use of pessimism was in 1815

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Last Updated

5 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Pessimism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 12 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for pessimism


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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