pes·​si·​mism | \ˈpe-sə-ˌmi-zəm 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

Contemporary science fiction often feels fixated on a sort of pessimism that peers into the world of tomorrow and sees the apocalypse looming more often than not. The Verge, "Better Worlds," 5 Dec. 2018 In context, then, Musk’s AI concerns are not an out-of-character streak of technological pessimism. Kelsey Piper, Vox, "Why Elon Musk fears artificial intelligence," 2 Nov. 2018 This revisiting of America’s rise to greatness illustrates the power of unfettered capitalism, but many readers will be more interested in Alan Greenspan’s take on our own age, when pessimism is on the rise. Edward Glaeser, WSJ, "‘Capitalism in America’ Review: The Commercial Republic," 18 Oct. 2018 What happened instead has been a surprisingly smooth path to Wednesday night’s semifinal against Croatia, as a youthful and undaunted England side swept away a nation’s pessimism. Sophie Gilbert, The Atlantic, "England’s Unfamiliar Emotion: Hope," 10 July 2018 The robust jobs report should counter some of the pessimism following last month’s GDP report that showed 3.5% growth in the third quarter but a disappointing 0.8% increase in business investment. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "The Growth Dividend for Workers," 2 Nov. 2018 But in covering the opioid epidemic, pessimism has, sadly, served me very well. German Lopez, Vox, "Trump’s health secretary says the opioid epidemic may be turning around. Not so fast.," 24 Oct. 2018 When times were bad - 1986, 2008 and 2015 - pessimism prevailed. Houston Chronicle, "Competition for top talent keeps pay scale high in oil industry," 13 July 2018 This enormous uncertainty leaves the Drake equation ultimately vulnerable to the optimism or pessimism of whoever wields it. Liv Boeree, Vox, "Why haven’t we found aliens yet?," 3 July 2018

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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Statistics for pessimism

Last Updated

11 Dec 2018

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Time Traveler for pessimism

The first known use of pessimism was in 1815

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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 \

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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More from Merriam-Webster on pessimism

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with pessimism

Spanish Central: Translation of pessimism

Nglish: Translation of pessimism for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of pessimism for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about pessimism

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