pes·​si·​mism ˈpe-sə-ˌmi-zəm How to pronounce pessimism (audio)
 also  ˈpe-zə-
: an inclination to emphasize adverse aspects, conditions, and possibilities or to expect the worst possible outcome
: the doctrine that reality is essentially evil
: 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 But to deny that the fundamental strengths of 2023 can persist, and to look past the significant easing of inflation (itself once cast as a structural runaway problem), strikes us as recalcitrant pessimism. Mike Sommers, Fortune Europe, 1 Feb. 2024 Despite Johnson's comments, and growing pessimism from some Senate Republicans, bipartisan Senate negotiators are continuing to press forward on a border compromise. Allison Pecorin, ABC News, 26 Jan. 2024 Now, remarkably, those who bet on pessimism are doubling down for 2024. Robert Hormats, Fortune, 30 Jan. 2024 Some of this pessimism stems from economic anxiety: most have negative views of the nation's economy. Jennifer De Pinto, CBS News, 23 Jan. 2024 What may have seemed, in 1980, to be mere pessimism, has turned out, in 2024, to be desperately prescient. Richard Brody, The New Yorker, 16 Jan. 2024 For if America’s resilience in the face of the pandemic shock has been remarkable, so has the pessimism of the public. Paul Krugman, The Mercury News, 9 Jan. 2024 Yet, defying these causes for pessimism, Reagan continued and even increased his support for the Afghan resistance for many years. Andrew L. Stigler, Twin Cities, 7 Jan. 2024 Gas prices have a direct effect on how Americans view the economy, and higher prices at the pump have translated to lingering pessimism for much of Biden’s presidency. Abha Bhattarai, Washington Post, 23 Dec. 2023 See More

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

Word History


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.

First Known Use

1815, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of pessimism was in 1815

Dictionary Entries Near pessimism

Cite this Entry

“Pessimism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


pes·​si·​mism ˈpes-ə-ˌmiz-əm How to pronounce pessimism (audio)
: a tending to expect the worst possible outcome
: a belief that evil is more common than good in life
pessimist noun

Medical Definition


ˈpes-ə-ˌmiz-əm also ˈpez-
: an inclination to emphasize adverse aspects, conditions, and possibilities or to expect the worst possible outcome
ˌpes-ə-ˈmis-tik also ˌpez-
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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