Latin ātra bīlis (black bile) (āter (dark, black) + bīlis (bile)) +‎ -ary.


  • IPA(key): /ˌætɹəˈbɪlɪəɹi/
  • Rhymes: -ɪəri
  • Hyphenation: atra‧bili‧ary


atrabiliary (comparative more atrabiliary, superlative most atrabiliary)

  1. (medicine, obsolete) Of or relating to black bile.
    • 1703, John Browne, The Surgeon's Assistant. In which is Plainly Discovered the True Origin of Most Diseases. Treating Particularly of the Plague, French Pox, Leprosie, &c. of the Biting of Mad Dogs, and other Venemous Creatures. Also a Compleat Treatise of Cancers and Gangreens. With an Enquiry whether they have any Alliance with Contagious Diseases. Their most Easie, and Speedy Method of Cure. With Diverse Approved Receipts, London: Printed for James Knapton, at the Crown in St Paul Church-yard, OCLC 642645796, page 83:
      A Cancer again is known by its renitency of touch, if it be mild it carries a black or livid colour outwards, so made by the peccant humour or atrabiliary juice; there's no heat felt on the touch, but rather a coldness in the part; []
    • 1753, William Norford, An Essay on the General Method of Treating Cancerous Tumours. In which the Opinions of some of the most Celebrated Authors, who have Writ on this Subject, are Examined, and Compared. The Whole Endeavouring to Shew what Stages of that Formidable Disease are Curable. Illustrated with Several Extraordinary Cases, London: Printed for J. Noon, at the White Hart in Cheapside, near the Poultry, OCLC 562911042, page 66:
      [] 'Tis true, when once a Schirrus is formed in a glandular Part, no one can tell how it may terminate; becauſe various changes may ariſe from various Cauſes in the Conſtitution of the Perſon; and if the Juices ſhould degenerate into a highly acrid, or what the Ancients termed an atrabiliary State, the Schirrus will be (cæteris paribus) more liable to become a Cancer.
    • 1757, Herman Boerhaave, Dr. Boerhaave's Academical Lectures on the Theory of Physic. Being a Genuine Translation of his Institutes and Explanatory Comment, Collated and Adjusted to Each Other, as they were Dictated to his Students at the University of Leyden, volume VI, London: Printed for J. Rivington [et al.], OCLC 150390352, page 226:
      Urine of a green Colour with a thick Sediment, denotes, 1. an atrabiliary Habit; 2. that the atrabiliary Matter now begins to be diſſolved and diſcharged, and that therefore, 3. there muſt be Anxieties about the Præcordia, a Diſturbance in the Bowels, with iliacal ancolicky Pains, &c.
    • 1774, Gerard van Swieten; Herman Boerhaave, Colin Hossack, editor, An Abridgement of Baron Van Swieten's Commentaries upon the Aphorisms of the Celebrated Dr. Herman Boerhaave, Late Professor of Physic, &c. in the University of Leyden. Concerning the Knowledge and Cure of Diseases. [...] In Five Volumes, volume III, London: Printed for Robert Horsfield, No. 22, in Ludgate-street; and Thomas Longman, No. 39, in Pater-noster Row, OCLC 34232275, page 249:
      Becauſe by theſe the blood is thinned, and the atrabiliary matter reſolved. But as the diſeaſe is of the chronic kind, theſe means muſt be continued a long time. [] We have hitherto conſidered the atrabiliary matter as equally diſperſed throughout the circulating humours; but if its quantity be increaſed, it may ſtick in divers parts of the body, and produce the worſt kinds of obſtructions.
    • 1827, [Marie François] Xavier Bichat; F. Gold, transl., Physiological Researches on Life and Death, Boston, Ma.: Richardson and Lord, OCLC 3334920, page 206:
      The four sorts of humours performed in the human body (microcosm) a part as important as the four elements did in the whole universe (macrocosm.) The bile, the blood, the pituitary and atrabiliary fluids determined, by their predominance the different temperaments, and produced the different diseases. The atrabiliary humour was, as is well known, thought to be the cause of melancholy and mania; []
    • 2005, Journal of the Society for Armenian Studies, Los Angeles and Fresno, Calif.; Dearborn, Mich.: The Society, page 172:
      The cold meningitis is due either to the lymphatic or the atrabiliary humors. [] There are two kinds of hot meningitis: One, atrabiliary; the other, atrabiliary mixed with a blood component.
  2. Melancholic or hypochondriac; atrabilious.
    • 1856, John Ogilvie, editor, A Supplement to the Imperial Dictionary, English, Technological, and Scientific: Containing an Extensive Collection of Words, Terms, and Phrases, in the Various Departments of Literature, Science, and Art; together with Numerous Obsolete, Obsolescent, and Scottish Words, found in Chaucer, Spenser, Shakespeare, and Scott, not Included in Previous English Dictionaries, Glasgow, Edinburgh and London: Blackie and Son, OCLC 669382972, page 35, columns 2–3:
      ATRABIL′IARY, ATRABIL′IOUS, a. Melancholic, or hypochondriacal; from the supposed preponderance of black bile. – atrabiliary capsules, the renal or supra-renal glands or capsules.
    • 1890, The American Catholic Quarterly Review, volume 15, Philadelphia, Pa.: Hardy and Mahony, OCLC 1479635, page 105:
      [] that chronic dissatisfaction at the imperfections of ordinary mortality and that yearning after the impossible incarnation of some superhuman ideal, which are characteristic of the typical "reformer," especially in his more atrabiliary moments.
    • 1902, François-René, Vicomte de Chateaubriand; Alexander Teixeira de Mattos, transl., The Memoirs of François René, Vicomte de Chateaubriand, Sometime Ambassador to England: Being a Translation by Alexander Teixeira de Mattos of the Mémoires d'outre-tombe, with Illustrations from Contemporary Sources, London: Freemantle and Co., OCLC 1909927, page 132:
      But unquestionably the most atrabiliary of the men of letters whom I knew in Paris at that time was [Nicolas] Chamfort. Attacked with the disorder that produced the Jacobins, he was unable to forgive mankind for the accident of his birth.
    • 1910, Proceedings of the Literary & Philosophical Society of Liverpool, number 61, Liverpool: The Society, OCLC 9843125, page 18:
      Daily he became more atrabiliary, sinking into a state of melancholy that eliminates the joy of living into the sadness of living.


Related termsEdit

Part or all of this entry has been imported from the 1913 edition of Webster’s Dictionary, which is now free of copyright and hence in the public domain. The imported definitions may be significantly out of date, and any more recent senses may be completely missing.
(See the entry for atrabiliary in
Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, G. & C. Merriam, 1913.)