See more synonyms for bleak on
adjective, bleak·er, bleak·est.
  1. bare, desolate, and often windswept: a bleak plain.
  2. cold and piercing; raw: a bleak wind.
  3. without hope or encouragement; depressing; dreary: a bleak future.

Origin of bleak

1300–50; Middle English bleke pale, blend of variants bleche (Old English blǣc) and blake (Old English blāc); both cognate with Old Norse bleikr, German bleich; akin to bleach
Related formsbleak·ish, adjectivebleak·ly, adverbbleak·ness, noun

Synonym study

3. See austere. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for bleakest

Contemporary Examples of bleakest

Historical Examples of bleakest

  • A gray dawn was breaking, and this is the coldest and bleakest hour of the day.

    Left on the Labrador

    Dillon Wallace

  • It was near the setting of the sun on one of the bleakest and coldest days of the year.

    The Tory Maid

    Herbert Baird Stimpson

  • He looked the saddest, sickest, bleakest creature I had ever seen.

  • As for me, I would not change the bleakest of them for the province of Champagne.

    Doom Castle

    Neil Munro

  • It was a heavy forenoon for me, perhaps the bleakest and dreariest of my life.

    The Book of Susan

    Lee Wilson Dodd

British Dictionary definitions for bleakest


  1. exposed and barren; desolate
  2. cold and raw
  3. offering little hope or excitement; dismala bleak future
Derived Formsbleakly, adverbbleakness, noun

Word Origin for bleak

Old English blāc bright, pale; related to Old Norse bleikr white, Old High German bleih pale


  1. any slender silvery European cyprinid fish of the genus Alburnus, esp A. lucidus, occurring in slow-flowing rivers

Word Origin for bleak

C15: probably from Old Norse bleikja white colour; related to Old High German bleiche bleach
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

Word Origin and History for bleakest



c.1300, "pale," from Old Norse bleikr "pale, whitish, blond," from Proto-Germanic *blaika- "shining, white," from PIE root *bhel- (1) "to shine, flash, burn" (see bleach (v.)). Later "bare, windswept" (1530s). Sense of "cheerless" is c.1719 figurative extension. The same Germanic root produced Old English blac "pale," but this died out, probably from confusion with blæc "black;" however bleak persisted, with a sense of "bare" as well as "pale."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper