melancholy

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English[edit]

Alternative forms[edit]

Etymology[edit]

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.

Pronunciation[edit]

  • (UK) IPA(key): /ˈmelənkəli/
  • (US) IPA(key): /ˈmɛl.ənˌkɑl.i/
  • (file)

Noun[edit]

melancholy (countable and uncountable, plural melancholies)

  1. (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.
  2. 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:
      As to Ernest... He is quite as nervously broken down as I am but it manifests itself in different ways. His inclination is towards megalomania and mine towards melancholy.

Derived terms[edit]

Translations[edit]

Adjective[edit]

melancholy (comparative more melancholy, superlative most melancholy)

  1. (literary) 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. […]”

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