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From Old French melancolie, from Ancient Greek μελαγχολία ‎(melankholía, atrabiliousness), from μέλας ‎(mélas), μελαν- ‎(melan-, black, dark, murky) + χολή ‎(kholḗ, bile). Compare the Latin ātra bīlis ‎(black bile).



melancholy ‎(comparative more melancholy, superlative most melancholy)

  1. Affected with great sadness or depression.
    Melancholy people don't talk much.
    • 1922, Ben Travers, chapter 1, in A Cuckoo in the Nest[1]:
      “[…] the awfully hearty sort of Christmas cards that people do send to other people that they don't know at all well. You know. The kind that have mottoes [] . And then, when you see [the senders], you probably find that they are the most melancholy old folk with malignant diseases. […]”




melancholy ‎(countable and uncountable, plural melancholies)

  1. (historical) Black bile, formerly thought to be one of the four "cardinal humours" of animal bodies.
    • 1621, Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy, Bk.I, New York 2001, p.148:
      Melancholy, cold and dry, thick, black, and sour, [] is a bridle to the other two hot humours, blood and choler, preserving them in the blood, and nourishing the bones.
  2. Great sadness or depression, especially of a thoughtful or introspective nature.


Related terms[edit]