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From Middle English melowe, melwe (soft, sweet, juicy), variant of Middle English merow, merwe (soft, tender), from Old English meru, mearu (tender, soft, callow, delicate, frail), from Proto-Germanic *marwaz (mellow), from Proto-Indo-European *mer(w)- (to rub, pack). Cognate with Saterland Frisian muur (tender), West Frisian murf (tender), Dutch murw (tender), German Low German möör (tender), German mürbe (tender, soft), Old Norse mör (tender; aching), Icelandic meyr (tender).



mellow (comparative mellower or more mellow, superlative mellowest or most mellow)

  1. Soft or tender by reason of ripeness; having a tender pulp.
    a mellow apple
  2. Easily worked or penetrated; not hard or rigid.
    a mellow soil
  3. Not coarse, rough, or harsh; subdued, soft, rich, delicate; said of sound, color, flavor, style, etc.
  4. Well matured; softened by years; genial; jovial.
  5. Relaxed; calm; easygoing; laid-back.
    • 1963, Margery Allingham, chapter 3, in The China Governess[1]:
      Here the stripped panelling was warmly gold and the pictures, mostly of the English school, were mellow and gentle in the afternoon light.
    • 2014, Carrie Mesrobian, Perfectly Good White Boy, →ISBN, page 132:
      “It better be that mellow shit, Kerry,” Wendy said, biting into a cookie. “I have to work tomorrow.” “It's mellow shit. You've smoked this stuff before.”
  6. Warmed by liquor, slightly intoxicated, stoned, or high.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Addison to this entry?)
    • 2004, Cecil Young, One Canada, →ISBN, page 266:
      These boys were heavy smokers, and like my high school classmates, were always “high”, “cool” and “mellow.” They were never violent and were helpful and respectful to the adults in our village.
    • 2014, Julie McSorley, Marcus McSorley, Out of the Box: The Highs and Lows of a Champion Smuggler, →ISBN, page 30:
      Late that night, everyone was sprawled on the sofas and bean bags in the lounge room, mellow because they'd smoked a couple of joints of hash.


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mellow (plural mellows)

  1. A relaxed mood.
    • 1997, Neil A. Hamilton, The ABC-CLIO companion to the 1960s counterculture in America, page 258:
      Yet, conversely, some people searched for the mellow ... Hope for flower power had faded, though the journey into the mellow did not
    • 1999, Kurt Andersen, Turn of the century, page 508:
      On their third date, Lizzie had actually said to him, "You're sort of harshing my mellow." It made him wonder if she might be stupid, and not just young.

Derived terms[edit]


mellow (third-person singular simple present mellows, present participle mellowing, simple past and past participle mellowed)

  1. (transitive) To make mellow; to relax or soften.
    The fervour of early feeling is tempered and mellowed by the ripeness of age.
    • a. 1701, John Dryden, “Epistle the Fourteenth. To Sir Godfrey Kneller, Principal Painter to His Majesty.”, in The Miscellaneous Works of John Dryden, [], volume II, London: [] J[acob] and R[ichard] Tonson, [], published 1760, OCLC 863244003, page 201:
      For time ſhall with his ready pencil ſtand; / Retouch your figures with his ripening hand; / Mellow your colors, and imbrown the teint; / Add every grace, which time alone can grant; / To future ages ſhall your fame convey, / And give more beauties than he takes away.
  2. (intransitive) To become mellow.

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