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macabre

or ma·ca·ber

[muh-kah-bruh, -kahb, -kah-ber]
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adjective
  1. gruesome and horrifying; ghastly; horrible.
  2. of, pertaining to, dealing with, or representing death, especially its grimmer or uglier aspect.
  3. of or suggestive of the allegorical dance of death.
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Origin of macabre

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
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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

  • They have probably belonged to a Macaber Dance in the windows of some church.

    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

  • 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


British Dictionary definitions for macaber

macabre

adjective
  1. gruesome; ghastly; grim
  2. resembling or associated with the danse macabre
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Derived Formsmacabrely, 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

Word Origin and History for macaber

macabre

adj.

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]
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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper