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. 2019

Examples from the Web for bleakly

Contemporary Examples of bleakly

Historical Examples of bleakly

  • Truth came to him bleakly, and laid her chill conviction upon him.

    The War in the Air

    Herbert George Wells

  • They knocked again, waited, then stared at each other bleakly.

    The Golden Skull

    John Blaine

  • “That is no matter of congratulation with me,” she said bleakly.


    Kate Douglas Wiggin

  • The third, clearly one of greater authority, regarded Ross bleakly.

    The Time Traders

    Andre Norton

  • She wouldn't get out of the way of evil, but bleakly accepted it.

    Christopher and Columbus

    Countess Elizabeth Von Arnim

British Dictionary definitions for bleakly


  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 bleakly

1530s, from bleak (adj.) + -ly (2).



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