Word of the Day Archive
Tuesday September 30, 2003
atrabilious \at-ruh-BIL-yuhs\ , adjective:
1. Melancholic; gloomy.
2. Irritable; ill-natured; peevish.
Captain Aubrey's steward [was] an ill-faced, ill-tempered, meagre, atrabilious, shrewish man who kept his officer's uniform, equipment and silver in a state of exact, old-maidish order come wind or high water.
-- Patrick O'Brian, The Hundred Days
So here we have him, as entertainingly atrabilious as ever he was . . . mocking the Fords, the Hitlers, the Mussolinis, the Sir Alfred Monds, the Owen D. Youngs -- all who would go back on laissez-faire and on toward the servile state.
-- John Chamberlain, "Future Shock", New York Times, October 6, 1996
Atrabilious is from Latin atra bilis, "black" (atra) "bile" (bilis). It is a translation of Greek melankholia, from melas, melan-, "black" + khole, "bile." According to ancient and medieval physiology, an excess of black bile in the system was supposed to cause melancholy.