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

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Examples of pessimism in a Sentence

Although the economy shows signs of improving, a sense of pessimism remains.
Recent Examples on the Web Maybe the George Floyd protests will change that racial pessimism. John Blake, CNN, "How 'good White people' derail racial progress," 1 Aug. 2020 Economic pessimism can translate into CEOs being less likely to pull the trigger on the business investments needed to drive the economy out of this crisis and generate growth within their firm. Lance Lambert, Fortune, "U.S. CEOs now see a double-dip recession as more likely than a V-shaped recovery," 30 July 2020 In conjunction with the Big Ten’s move, the Pac-12’s decision adds to the growing sense of pessimism among coaches, athletics directors and university administrators that the season may not proceed as planned. Paul Myerberg, USA TODAY, "Pac-12 joins Big Ten with conference-only football, other sports for the fall," 11 July 2020 Still, with the virus driving recovery prospects, a dose of pessimism has returned to the oil market. Hailey Waller,, "Oil Rises on Russian Export Cuts, Offsets Virus Demand Jitters," 1 July 2020 But growing pessimism is the prevailing sentiment in Republican circles as party operatives digest Democratic Senate candidates’ second-quarter fundraising numbers. David M. Drucker, Washington Examiner, "Democratic Senate challengers stun Republicans with massive fundraising haul," 9 July 2020 The pessimism seeping in every line challenged Dratch to hold it together, which affected those around her. Marc Bona, cleveland, "How funny are the women on ‘Saturday Night Live’?," 23 June 2020 When athletes perhaps inevitably began testing positive, a new wave of pessimism rolled over college football. Nathan Baird, cleveland, "As college football confronts COVID-19 testing, surges unrelated to athletics may pose the biggest threat," 26 June 2020 Reason for pessimism: Despite its underdog status, Oklahoma City leads the NBA in clutch record. Callie Caplan, Dallas News, "Mavs playoff breakdown: Reasons for optimism, pessimism and key stats vs. 5 potential opponents," 18 June 2020

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

Time Traveler

The first known use of pessimism was in 1815

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Statistics for pessimism

Last Updated

4 Aug 2020

Cite this Entry

“Pessimism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Aug. 2020.

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More Definitions for pessimism


How to pronounce pessimism (audio)

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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