From Middle English malencolie, 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”). The adjectival use is a Middle English innovation, perhaps influenced by the suffixes -y, -ly.
- (historical) Black bile, formerly thought to be one of the four "cardinal humours" of animal bodies.
- 1624, Democritus Junior [pseudonym; Robert Burton], The Anatomy of Melancholy: […], 2nd edition, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Printed by John Lichfield and James Short, for Henry Cripps, OCLC 54573970:, 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.
- Great sadness or depression, especially of a thoughtful or introspective nature.
- 1591, William Shakespeare, “The Second Part of Henry the Sixt, […]”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies: Published According to the True Originall Copies (First Folio), London: […] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, OCLC 606515358, [Act V, scene i]:
- My mind was troubled with deep melancholy.
- c. 1598–1600, William Shakespeare, “As You Like It”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies […] (First Folio), London: […] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, OCLC 606515358, [Act IV, scene i]:
- I have neither the scholar’s melancholy, which is emulation; nor the musician’s, which is fantastical; nor the courtier’s, which is proud; nor the soldier’s, which is ambitious; nor the lawyer’s, which is politic; nor the lady’s, which is nice; nor the lover’s, which is all these; but it is a melancholy of mine own, compounded of many simples, extracted from many objects, and, indeed, the sundry contemplation of my travels; in which my often rumination wraps me in a most humorous sadness.
- 1831, Letitia Elizabeth Landon, Romance and Reality, volume 3, page 111:
- "The ancients referred melancholy to the mind, the moderns make it matter of digestion—to either case my plan applies," said Lady Mandeville.
- 1936 Sept. 15, F. Scott Fitzgerald, letter to Beatrice Dance:
- (literary) Affected with great sadness or depression.
- Melancholy people don't talk much.
- 1922, Ben Travers, chapter 1, in A Cuckoo in the Nest:
- “[…] 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. […]”