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[pes-uh-miz-uh m] /ˈpɛs əˌmɪz əm/
the tendency to see, anticipate, or emphasize only bad or undesirable outcomes, results, conditions, problems, etc.:
His pessimism about the future of our country depresses me.
the doctrine that the existing world is the worst of all possible worlds, or that all things naturally tend to evil.
the belief that the evil and pain in the world are not compensated for by goodness and happiness.
Origin of pessimism
1785-95; < Latin pessim(us), suppletive superlative of malus bad + -ism; modeled on optimism
Related forms
overpessimism, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for pessimism
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Want of love may also be a cause of pessimism; most pessimists have been lonely men.

  • He was acquainted with that more or less literary form of pessimism.

    Fruitfulness Emile Zola
  • The real character of what is known as Byron's pessimism is better worth study than any real pessimism could ever be.

    Twelve Types G.K. Chesterton
  • In other words, she may have married Mr. Jackson in a fit of pessimism.

    Audrey Craven May Sinclair
  • Yet on one side he maintained that his own pessimism was more truly Christian than their optimism.

    Schopenhauer Thomas Whittaker
British Dictionary definitions for pessimism


the tendency to expect the worst and see the worst in all things
the doctrine of the ultimate triumph of evil over good
the doctrine that this world is corrupt and that man's sojourn in it is a preparation for some other existence
Derived Forms
pessimist, noun
pessimistic, (rare) pessimistical, adjective
pessimistically, adverb
Word Origin
C18: from Latin pessimus worst, from malus bad
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 pessimism

1794 "worst condition possible," borrowed (by Coleridge) from French pessimisme, formed (on model of French optimisme) from Latin pessimus "worst," originally "bottom-most," from PIE *ped-samo-, superlative of root *pes- "foot" (see foot (n.)). As a name given to the doctrines of Schopenhauer, Hartmann, etc., that this is the worst possible world, or that everything tends toward evil, it is first recorded 1835, from German pessimismus (Schopenhauer, 1819). The attempt to make a verb of it as pessimize (1862) did not succeed.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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