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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
  • He had no successful military experience, no formal education, and suffered from depression and melancholy all his life.
  • It seemed to be one of the saddest places on earth, not the worst just melancholy.
  • Next week is our last full week together before I head back, and we all are melancholy.
  • Amid the melancholy, there is a glimmer of resilience and a hope that feels hard-won.
  • His romances were brilliant and powerful, but his own life seemed muted and melancholy.
  • But a kind of pleasant melancholy had set in which no amount of vodka and caviar could cure.
  • Happy music made happy faces seem even happier while sad music exaggerated the melancholy of a frown.
  • In his jacket photo, though, he looked quietly intense and appealingly melancholy.
  • Among other things, the two were bound by melancholy.
  • Makes you feel happy again, with no more reason than you felt melancholy before.
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
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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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