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From Latin pessimus (worst) +‎ -ize, modelled after optimize.[1] Pessimus is derived from Proto-Indo-European *ped-tm̥mó-s, from *ped- (to step, walk; to fall, stumble) + *-tm̥mó-s (superlative suffix).



pessimize (third-person singular simple present pessimizes, present participle pessimizing, simple past and past participle pessimized)

  1. (transitive) To take a pessimistic view of; to speak of in a negative or pessimistic way.
    Antonym: optimize
  2. (transitive) To make (something) pessimal or the worst; (in a weaker sense) to make (something, such as a computer program) less efficient.
    Antonym: optimize
    • 1996, Eric S[teven] Raymond, “pessimizing compiler”, in The New Hacker’s Dictionary, 3rd edition, Cambridge, Mass., London: MIT Press, →ISBN, page 354:
      pessimizing compiler [...] A compiler that produces object [...] code that is worse than the straightforward or obvious hand translation. The implication is that the compiler is actually trying to optimize the program, but through excessive cleverness is doing the opposite. A few pessimizing compilers have been written on purpose, however, as pranks or burlesques.
    • 1999, Paul Hawken, Amory B[loch] Lovins, L. Hunter Lovins, “Tunneling through the Cost Barrier”, in Natural Capitalism: The Next Industrial Revolution, London: Earthscan Publications, →ISBN, page 117:
      Designing a window without the building, a light without the room, or a motor without the machine it drives works as badly as designing a pelican without the fish. Optimizing components in isolation tends to pessimize the whole system – and hence the bottom line.
    • 2007, Amory B[loch] Lovins, “Energy Myth Nine – Energy Efficiency Improvements have already Reached Their Potential”, in Benjamin K. Sovacool, Marilyn A. Brown, editors, Energy and American society – Thirteen Myths, Dordrecht: Springer, →ISBN, page 244:
      Thus optimizing the pipe as a component, and for just one benefit (saved pumping energy), "pessimizes" the system! Optimizing the whole system together, and for two benefits (saving energy and capital), yields fat pipes, tiny pumping equipment, slightly lower total capital cost, and 12 times less pumping energy.
    • 2015, Robin Morris Collin, “Human Rights and Waste”, in Robert William Collin, Trash Talk: An Encyclopedia of Garbage and Recycling around the World, Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO, →ISBN, page 28:
      The development conundrum is that even as the systems of production and consumption meet human needs and aspirations, they may pessimize the ecosystem on which all life depends. Ecosystem services are the benefits that humans derive from the way that natural systems function. Our skill at exploiting these functions has elevated human survival but pessimized the system.
  3. (intransitive) To think like a pessimist; to believe the worst.
    Antonym: optimize
    • 1865 August 19, “The Fifty Years’ Peace between Britain and France”, in The Illustrated London News, volume XLVII, numbers 1329–1330, London: Printed & published by George C. Leighton [], →OCLC, page 175, column 1:
      The pessimising and desponding tone of the Tory Foreign Minister's correspondence, in the early part of 1859, can hardly be read without a shudder.
    • 1875 May 29, “Sketches in Parliament”, in The Illustrated London News, volume LXVI, number 1868, London: Printed & published by George C. Leighton [], →OCLC, page 510, column 1:
      Glancing at the developments of individualities in memberdom, it may be said that Lord Elebo availed himself of the last appearance in the House of the Army Estimates to repeat the attacks on the physical condition of the men of the service which he had so elaborately made a week or two ago; and he pessimised on the subject, if possible, with the same exaggeration as before.
    • 1876 May 15, Sir Stafford Northcote (Chancellor of the Exchequer), “Customs and Inland Revenue Bill.—[Bill 124.]: Second Reading”, in Hansard’s Parliamentary Debates, [] (House of Commons), volume CCXXIX (Third Series), 3rd volume of the session, London: Published by Cornelius Buck, at the office for “Hansard’s Parliamentary Debates,” [], →OCLC, column 751:
      Certainly it was not in the interest of the Government to come forward and propose any additional taxation if they could, with consistency and with satisfaction to heir own consciences, have avoided it, and he did not think his two previous Budgets showed that it was in his nature to pessimise or to take desponding views.
    • 1926, Rudyard Kipling, “The United Idolaters”, in Debits and Credits, Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Page & Company, →OCLC, page 85:
      Pessimists, no more than poets, love each other, and even when they work together it is one thing to pessimise congenially with an ancient and tried associate who is also a butt, and another to be pessimised over by an inexperienced junior, even though the latter's college career may have included more exhibitions—nay, even pot-huntings—than one's own.
    • 1984, Virginia Woolf, The Diary of Virginia Woolf, 1st American edition, volumes V (1936–1941), New York, N.Y.: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, →ISBN, page 268:
      Said very likely [...] the war means that the barbarian will gradually freeze out culture. Nor have we improved. Tom [i.e., James Joyce] & Saxon [Sydney-Turner] said the Greeks were more thoroughly civilised. The slave was not so much a slave as ours are. Clive [Bell] also pessimised—saw the light going out gradually. So I flung some rather crazy theories into the air.
  4. (intransitive) To become pessimal or the worst.
    Antonym: optimize
    • 2008, Jerry Yudelson, “The Costs of Green Buildings”, in The Green Building Revolution, Washington, D.C., Covelo, Calif.: Island Press, →ISBN, page 50:
      Without an effort to integrate the various design disciplines, for instance, individual subsystems (such as the HVAC system) may be optimized, but the system as a whole may be "pessimized."

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  1. ^ pessimize, v.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, December 2005; pessimize”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.