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[mel-uh n-kol-ee] /ˈmɛl ənˌkɒl i/
noun, plural melancholies.
a gloomy state of mind, especially when habitual or prolonged; depression.
sober thoughtfulness; pensiveness.
  1. the condition of having too much black bile, considered in ancient and medieval medicine to cause gloominess and depression.
  2. black bile.
affected with, characterized by, or showing melancholy; mournful; depressed:
a melancholy mood.
causing melancholy or sadness; saddening:
a melancholy occasion.
soberly thoughtful; pensive.
Origin of melancholy
1275-1325; Middle English melancholie < Late Latin melancholia < Greek melancholía condition of having black bile, equivalent to melan- melan- + chol() bile + -ia -ia
Related forms
melancholily, adverb
melancholiness, noun
unmelancholy, adjective
1. sadness, dejection, despondency. 2. seriousness. 4. gloomy, despondent, blue, dispirited, sorrowful, dismal, doleful, glum, downcast. 6. serious.
1. cheer, happiness. 5. happy. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for melancholy
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Where she could be placed became a subject of most melancholy and momentous consultation.

    Mansfield Park Jane Austen
  • She pitied herself,—that lowest ebb of melancholy self-consciousness.

    Malbone Thomas Wentworth Higginson
  • "Let me show him," broke in the melancholy voice of Wellington Bunn.

    The Moving Picture Girls Laura Lee Hope
  • If he be proved culpable in this most melancholy business, and, alas!

  • We must follow the career of the collection to its melancholy end.

    The Great Book-Collectors Charles Isaac Elton and Mary Augusta Elton
British Dictionary definitions for melancholy


noun (pl) -cholies
a constitutional tendency to gloominess or depression
a sad thoughtful state of mind; pensiveness
  1. a gloomy character, thought to be caused by too much black bile
  2. one of the four bodily humours; black bile See humour (sense 8)
characterized by, causing, or expressing sadness, dejection, etc
Derived Forms
melancholily (ˈmɛlənˌkɒlɪlɪ) adverb
melancholiness, noun
Word Origin
C14: via Old French from Late Latin melancholia, from Greek melankholia, from melas black + kholē bile
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for melancholy

c.1300, "condition characterized by sullenness, gloom, irritability," from Old French melancolie "black bile, ill disposition, anger, annoyance" (13c.), from Late Latin melancholia, from Greek melankholia "sadness," literally (excess of) "black bile," from melas (genitive melanos) "black" (see melanin) + khole "bile" (see Chloe). Medieval physiology attributed depression to excess of "black bile," a secretion of the spleen and one of the body's four "humors."

The Latin word also is the source of Spanish melancolia, Italian melancolia, German Melancholie, Danish melankoli, etc. Old French variant malencolie (also in Middle English) is by false association with mal "sickness."


late 14c., "with or caused by black bile; sullen, gloomy, sad," from melancholy (n.); sense of "deplorable" (of a fact or state of things) is from 1710.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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melancholy in Medicine

melancholy mel·an·chol·y (měl'ən-kŏl'ē)

  1. Sadness or depression of the spirits; gloom.

  2. Melancholia.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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