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  • IPA(key): /bliːk/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -iːk

Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English bleke (also bleche, whence the English doublet bleach (pale, bleak)), and bleike (due to Old Norse), and earlier Middle English blak, blac (pale, wan), from Old English blǣc, blǣċ, blāc (bleak, pale, pallid) and Old Norse bleikr (pale, whitish)[1], all from Proto-Germanic *blaikaz (pale, shining).

Cognate with Dutch bleek (pale, wan, pallid), Low German blek (pale), German bleich (pale, wan, sallow), Danish bleg (pale), Swedish blek (pale, pallid), Norwegian Bokmål bleik, blek (pale), Norwegian Nynorsk bleik (pale), Faroese bleikur (pale), Icelandic bleikur (pale, pink).


bleak (comparative bleaker, superlative bleakest)

  1. Without color; pale; pallid.
  2. Desolate and exposed; swept by cold winds.
    a bleak and bare rock    a bleak, crater-pocked moonscape
    They escaped across the bleak landscape.
    We hiked across open meadows and climbed bleak mountains.
    • 1793, William Wordsworth, Descriptive Sketches
      Wastes too bleak to rear / The common growth of earth, the foodful ear.
    • 1840 January 10, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “[Ballads.] The Wreck of the Hesperus.”, in Ballads and Other Poems, 2nd edition, Cambridge, Mass.: [] John Owen, published 1842, OCLC 978271908, stanza 20, page 47:
      At daybreak, on the bleak sea-beach, / A fisherman stood aghast, / To see the form of a maiden fair, / Lashed close to a drifting mast.
  3. Unhappy; cheerless; miserable; emotionally desolate.
    • 2019 May 19, Alex McLevy, “The final Game Of Thrones brings a pensive but simple meditation about stories (newbies)”, in The A.V. Club[1]:
      Dany didn’t necessarily have to die, but letting her live would’ve been an assessment of humanity so bleak that even George R.R. Martin, it seems, wants to hope for something better.
    Downtown Albany felt bleak that February after the divorce.
    A bleak future is in store for you.
    The news is bleak.
    The survey paints a bleak picture.
Derived terms[edit]
The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.

Etymology 2[edit]

From Middle English bleke (small river fish, bleak, blay), perhaps an alteration (due to English blǣc (bright) or Old Norse bleikja) of Old English blǣġe (bleak, blay, gudgeon); or perhaps from a diminutive of Middle English *bleye (blay), equivalent to blay +‎ -ock or blay +‎ -kin. See blay.


bleak (plural bleaks or bleak)

English Wikipedia has an article on:
  1. A small European river fish (Alburnus alburnus), of the family Cyprinidae.
Derived terms[edit]


  1. ^ Douglas Harper (2001–2023), “bleak”, in Online Etymology Dictionary.