sple·​net·​ic spli-ˈne-tik How to pronounce splenetic (audio)
 archaic  ˈsple-nə-(ˌ)tik
archaic : given to melancholy
: marked by bad temper, malevolence, or spite
splenetic noun
splenetically adverb

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To vent one’s spleen is to express anger. There are healthy ways of doing this, of course, but vent too much of your spleen, or vent it too often, and you may be accused of being splenetic. Both spleen and splenetic trace back to the Latin word splen, which refers to the bodily organ responsible for storing and filtering blood, among other functions. So why the association with anger? In early Western physiology, a person's physical qualities and mental disposition were believed to be determined by the proportion of four bodily humors: blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile. The last of these was believed to be secreted by the spleen, and to cause feelings and dispositions ranging from intense sadness (melancholia) to anger and violent temper—hence splenetic. In later years, the "melancholy" sense fell out of use (and the theory of the humors was discredited), but the "angry" sense of splenetic remains with us today.

Examples of splenetic in a Sentence

the newspaper publisher's splenetic editorials often struck fear into local politicians
Recent Examples on the Web And while there is enough splenetic wit and manic detail to generate obsessive fandom (entire sections of Web sites are dedicated to deciphering just what Kenny is mumbling), subjects like alien abduction, genetic engineering, and Kathie Lee are hardly original targets for satire. Chris Norris, SPIN, 13 Aug. 2022 Meanwhile, the commentator and controversialist Piers Morgan, an obsessively close observer and relentless critic of Meghan, inevitably waded in with his usual splenetic views. Sarah Lyall, New York Times, 17 Sep. 2022 Moscow’s splenetic response to the European visit underscored Putin’s anger over Ukraine’s tightening bonds with Europe. Laura Kingstaff Writer, Los Angeles Times, 20 June 2022 In Rithy Panh’s frenetic, splenetic new hybrid essay film, everything will most assuredly not be OK. Jessica Kiang, Variety, 12 Feb. 2022 Despite the politicians’ splenetic arguments all week, Macron’s plan passed the National Assembly by a vote of 214 to 93. Vivienne Walt, Fortune, 6 Jan. 2022 In the end, the IRA’s menagerie of false personas and fusillades of splenetic memes were arguably more effective at garnering sensationalistic headlines than shifting public opinion. Franklin Foer, The Atlantic, 11 May 2020 Parlá is loose with his fields of color, but never splenetic. Jon Caramanica, New York Times, 8 Mar. 2020 Kalder proposes Lenin as the originator of the modern totalitarian style in prose, adopting Marx’s splenetic polemical tone for the purposes of Communist revolution. Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker, 16 Dec. 2019

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

Word History


Late Latin spleneticus, from Latin splen spleen

First Known Use

1697, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of splenetic was in 1697


Dictionary Entries Near splenetic

Cite this Entry

“Splenetic.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/splenetic. Accessed 22 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition


sple·​net·​ic spli-ˈnet-ik How to pronounce splenetic (audio)
: marked by bad temper : testy, grumpy
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