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noun, plural mel·an·chol·ies.
  1. a gloomy state of mind, especially when habitual or prolonged; depression.
  2. sober thoughtfulness; pensiveness.
  3. Archaic.
    1. the condition of having too much black bile, considered in ancient and medieval medicine to cause gloominess and depression.
    2. black bile.
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  1. affected with, characterized by, or showing melancholy; mournful; depressed: a melancholy mood.
  2. causing melancholy or sadness; saddening: a melancholy occasion.
  3. soberly thoughtful; pensive.
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Origin of melancholy

1275–1325; Middle English melancholie < Late Latin melancholia < Greek melancholía condition of having black bile, equivalent to melan- melan- + chol(ḗ) bile + -ia -ia
Related formsmel·an·chol·i·ly, adverbmel·an·chol·i·ness, nounun·mel·an·chol·y, adjective


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

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British Dictionary definitions for melancholy


noun plural -cholies
  1. a constitutional tendency to gloominess or depression
  2. a sad thoughtful state of mind; pensiveness
  3. archaic
    1. a gloomy character, thought to be caused by too much black bile
    2. one of the four bodily humours; black bileSee humour (def. 8)
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  1. characterized by, causing, or expressing sadness, dejection, etc
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Derived Formsmelancholily (ˈmɛlənˌkɒlɪlɪ), adverbmelancholiness, noun

Word Origin

C14: via Old French from Late Latin melancholia, from Greek melankholia, from melas black + kholē bile
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 melancholy


c.1300, "condition characterized by sullenness, gloom, irritability," from Old French melancolie "black bile, ill disposition, anger, annoyance" (13c.), from Late Latin melancholia, from Greek melankholia "sadness," literally (excess of) "black bile," from melas (genitive melanos) "black" (see melanin) + khole "bile" (see Chloe). Medieval physiology attributed depression to excess of "black bile," a secretion of the spleen and one of the body's four "humors."

The Latin word also is the source of Spanish melancolia, Italian melancolia, German Melancholie, Danish melankoli, etc. Old French variant malencolie (also in Middle English) is by false association with mal "sickness."

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late 14c., "with or caused by black bile; sullen, gloomy, sad," from melancholy (n.); sense of "deplorable" (of a fact or state of things) is from 1710.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

melancholy in Medicine


  1. Sadness or depression of the spirits; gloom.
  2. Melancholia.
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The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.