Did You Know?
Today's word traces back to Greek melan‑ ("black, dark") and cholē ("bile"). Medical practitioners once adhered to the system of humors—bodily fluids that included black bile, yellow bile, blood, and phlegm. An imbalance of these humors was thought to lead to disorders of the mind and body. One suffering from an excess of black bile (believed to be secreted by the kidneys or spleen) could become sullen and unsociable—liable to anger, irritability, brooding, and depression. Today, doctors no longer ascribe physical and mental disorders to disruptions of the four humors, but the word melancholia is still used in psychiatry (it is identified as a "subtype" of clinical depression in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) and as a general term for despondency. The older term melancholy, ultimately from the same Greek roots, is historically a synonym of melancholia but now more often refers to a sad or pensive mood.
"Nevertheless, wakened out of her melancholia and called to the dinner table, she changed her mind. A little food in the stomach does wonders." — Theodore Dreiser, Sister Carrie, 1900
"The ocean as healer beckoned people through the centuries. English doctors of yester-century prescribed 'sea baths' even to dissolve melancholia." — Liza Field, The Roanoke (Virginia) Times, 13 Jan. 2018
Test Your Vocabulary with M-W Quizzes
Test Your Vocabulary
Fill in the blanks to complete a word referring to a morbid concern about one's health accompanied by delusions of physical disease: h _ _ oc _ o _ d _ ia _ i _.VIEW THE ANSWER
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