1 a : of or relating to bile
b : marked by or suffering from liver dysfunction and especially excessive excretion of bile
c : appearing as if affected by liver dysfunction
2 : of or indicative of a peevish ill-natured disposition
3 : sickeningly unpleasant
Did You Know?
Bilious is one of several words whose origins trace to the old belief that four bodily humors (black bile, yellow bile, phlegm, and blood) control temperament. Just like phlegmatic ("of a slow and stolid phlegm-driven character"), melancholy ("experiencing dejection associated with black bile"), and sanguine ("of a cheerful, blood-based disposition"), bilious suggests a personality associated with an excess of one of the humors—in this case, yellow bile. Bilious, which first appeared in English in the mid-1500s, derives from the Middle French bilieux, which in turn traces to bilis, Latin for "bile." In the past, bile was also called choler, which gives us choleric, a synonym of bilious.
"These two men, of hard, bilious natures both, rarely came into contact but they chafed each other's moods." — Charlotte Brontë, Shirley, 1849
"But [newspaper columnist Jimmy] Breslin's greatest character was himself: the outer-borough boulevardier of bilious persuasion." — Dan Berry, The New York Times, 20 Mar. 2017
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