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From French bilieux, from Latin bīliōsus (full of bile), from bīlis (bile) + -ōsus (full of).





bilious (comparative more bilious, superlative most bilious)

  1. Of or pertaining to something containing or consisting of bile.
  2. Resembling bile, especially in color.
    • 1820, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Oedipus Tyrannus; Or, Swellfoot The Tyrant: A Tragedy in Two Acts:
      Does money fail?—come to my mint—coin paper,
      Till gold be at a discount, and ashamed
      To show his bilious face, go purge himself,
      In emulation of her vestal whiteness.
    • 1845, Alexandre Dumas, chapter 31, in Twenty Years After:
      His complexion was pale, not of that deadly pallor which is a kind of neutral beauty, but of a bilious, yellow hue; his colorless hair was short and scarcely extended beyond the circle formed by the hat around his head, and his light blue eyes seemed destitute of any expression.
    • 1920, Sinclair Lewis, chapter 3, in Main Street:
      The business-center of Schoenstrom took up one side of one block, facing the railroad. It was a row of one-story shops covered with galvanized iron, or with clapboards painted red and bilious yellow.
    • 1952, Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man, prologue:
      A beautiful girl once told me of a recurring nightmare in which she lay in the center of a large dark room and felt her face expand until it filled the whole room, becoming a formless mass while her eyes ran in bilious jelly up the chimney.
  3. (pathology) Suffering from real or supposed liver disorder, especially excessive secretions of bile.
    • 1815, Jane Austen, Emma, volume II, chapter 7:
      Perry tells me that Mr. Cole never touches malt liquor. You would not think it to look at him, but he is bilious—Mr. Cole is very bilious.
  4. Peevishly ill-humored, irritable or bad tempered; irascible.
    • 1830 January, Thomas Macaulay, “[Review of] Southey's Colloquies on Society”, in The Edinburgh Review, page 536:
      The glorified spirit of a great statesman and philosopher dawdling, like a bilious old Nabob at a watering-place, over quarterly reviews and novels—dropping in to pay long calls—making excursions in search of the picturesque!
    • 1934, George Orwell, Burmese Days:
      The boarders, sharp-tongued bilious widows, pursued the only man in the establishment, a mild, bald creature who worked in La Samaritaine []

Derived terms