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): /ˈmɛlənkəli/
  • (US) IPA(key): /ˈmɛl.ənˌkɑ.li/
  • (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:
      , 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 (date written), William Shakespeare, “The Second Part of Henry the Sixt, []”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies. [] (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, →OCLC, [Act V, scene i], line 34:
      My mind was troubled with deep melancholy.
    • c. 1598–1600 (date written), 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, [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, L[etitia] E[lizabeth] L[andon], chapter VI, in Romance and Reality. [], volume III, London: Henry Colburn and Richard Bentley, [], →OCLC, 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. […]”
    • 1981, Greg Kihn, Steve Wright, “The Breakup Song (They Don't Write 'Em)”, in RocKihnRoll[2], performed by The Greg Kihn Band:
      And then the band slowed the tempo / And the music gets you down / Ah-ah-ah, ah-ah-ah-ah, ah / It was the same old song / With a melancholy sound / Ah-ah-ah, ah-ah-ah-ah, ah

Synonyms edit

Translations edit

Related terms edit