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or macaber

[muh-kah-bruh, -kahb, -kah-ber] /məˈkɑ brə, -ˈkɑb, -ˈkɑ bər/
gruesome and horrifying; ghastly; horrible.
of, pertaining to, dealing with, or representing death, especially its grimmer or uglier aspect.
of or suggestive of the allegorical dance of death.
Origin of macabre
late Middle English
1400-50; < French; compare late Middle English Macabrees daunce < Middle French danse (de) Macabré, of uncertain origin; perhaps to be identified with Medieval Latin chorēa Machabaeōrum a representation of the deaths of Judas Maccabaeus and his brothers, but evidence is lacking; the French pronunciation with mute e is a misreading of the Middle French forms Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for macaber
Historical Examples
  • Again,—As to the connexion between the word macaber with the Dance itself.

    The Dance of Death Francis Douce
  • The figures at bottom indicate its having been part of a macaber Dance.

    The Dance of Death Francis Douce
  • They have probably belonged to a macaber Dance in the windows of some church.

    The Dance of Death Francis Douce
  • In its construction there is a striking resemblance to the common metrical stanzas that accompany the macaber Dance.

    The Dance of Death Francis Douce
  • But it was not only in the above volumes that the very popular subject of the macaber Dance was particularly exhibited.

    The Dance of Death Francis Douce
  • In the tower of London, the original and most ancient seat of our monarchs, there was some tapestry with the macaber Dance.

    The Dance of Death Francis Douce
  • It is probable that the book would be found to contain other figures relating to a macaber Dance.

    The Dance of Death Francis Douce
  • The ancient paintings of the macaber Dance next demand our attention.

    The Dance of Death Francis Douce
  • This macaber Dance is unfortunately imperfect in the only copy of the book that has occurred.

    The Dance of Death Francis Douce
British Dictionary definitions for macaber


/məˈkɑːbə; -brə/
gruesome; ghastly; grim
resembling or associated with the danse macabre
Derived Forms
macabrely, adverb
Word Origin
C15: from Old French danse macabre dance of death, probably from macabé relating to the Maccabees, who were associated with death because of the doctrines and prayers for the dead in II Macc. (12:43–46)
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for macaber



early 15c., from Old French (danse) Macabré "(dance) of Death" (1376), probably a translation of Medieval Latin (Chorea) Machabæorum, literally "dance of the Maccabees" (leaders of the Jewish revolt against Syro-Hellenes; see Maccabees). The association with the dance of death seems to be via vivid descriptions of the martyrdom of the Maccabees in the Apocryphal books. The abstracted sense of "gruesome" is first attested 1842 in French, 1889 in English.

The typical form which the allegory takes is that of a series of pictures, sculptured or painted, in which Death appears, either as a dancing skeleton or as a shrunken corpse wrapped in grave-clothes to persons representing every age and condition of life, and leads them all in a dance to the grave. ["Encyclopaedia Britannica," 11th ed., 1911]

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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