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[muh-kah-bruh, -kahb, -kah-ber] /məˈkɑ brə, -ˈkɑb, -ˈkɑ bər/
gruesome and horrifying; ghastly; horrible.
of, pertaining to, dealing with, or representing death, especially its grimmer or uglier aspect.
of or suggestive of the allegorical dance of death.
Also, macaber.
late Middle English
1400-50; < French; compare late Middle English Macabrees daunce < Middle French danse (de) Macabré, of uncertain origin; perhaps to be identified with Medieval Latin chorēa Machabaeōrum a representation of the deaths of Judas Maccabaeus and his brothers, but evidence is lacking; the French pronunciation with mute e is a misreading of the Middle French forms Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for macabre
  • At the crime scene pages of instructions spelled out a macabre scavenger hunt.
  • As a drawing card, it is somewhat macabre.
  • On learning its function, it suddenly looks macabre.
  • While the ensuing events are often lyrical, more frequently they're macabre.
  • The celebrity deathpool is like a macabre version of the office betting pool.
  • Drama that emphasizes the horrifying or the macabre.
  • Cleaners made some macabre finds.
  • The elusive separatist leader often uses it to reveal his macabre or heroic plans for the coming months.
  • There is also more graphic violence and macabre detail this time around.
  • Impressive in the macabre intensity of the mood, that is.
British Dictionary definitions for macabre


/məˈkɑːbə; -brə/
gruesome; ghastly; grim
resembling or associated with the danse macabre
Derived Forms
macabrely, adverb
Word Origin
C15: from Old French danse macabre dance of death, probably from macabé relating to the Maccabees, who were associated with death because of the doctrines and prayers for the dead in II Macc. (12:43–46)
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 macabre

early 15c., from Old French (danse) Macabré "(dance) of Death" (1376), probably a translation of Medieval Latin (Chorea) Machabæorum, literally "dance of the Maccabees" (leaders of the Jewish revolt against Syro-Hellenes; see Maccabees). The association with the dance of death seems to be via vivid descriptions of the martyrdom of the Maccabees in the Apocryphal books. The abstracted sense of "gruesome" is first attested 1842 in French, 1889 in English.

The typical form which the allegory takes is that of a series of pictures, sculptured or painted, in which Death appears, either as a dancing skeleton or as a shrunken corpse wrapped in grave-clothes to persons representing every age and condition of life, and leads them all in a dance to the grave. ["Encyclopaedia Britannica," 11th ed., 1911]

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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