[pes-uh-miz-uh m]


the tendency to see, anticipate, or emphasize only bad or undesirable outcomes, results, conditions, problems, etc.: His pessimism about the future of our country depresses me.
the doctrine that the existing world is the worst of all possible worlds, or that all things naturally tend to evil.
the belief that the evil and pain in the world are not compensated for by goodness and happiness.

Origin of pessimism

1785–95; < Latin pessim(us), suppletive superlative of malus bad + -ism; modeled on optimism
Related formso·ver·pes·si·mism, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for pessimism

Contemporary Examples of pessimism

Historical Examples of pessimism

  • His pessimism about his play caused him to exaggerate the enormity of his offences.

    The Foolish Lovers

    St. John G. Ervine

  • He was acquainted with that more or less literary form of pessimism.


    Emile Zola

  • Away, for the time, went Jed's pessimism and his hopeless musings.


    Joseph C. Lincoln

  • In other words, she may have married Mr. Jackson in a fit of pessimism.

    Audrey Craven

    May Sinclair

  • His disbelief and his pessimism were identical in their structure.

British Dictionary definitions for pessimism



the tendency to expect the worst and see the worst in all things
the doctrine of the ultimate triumph of evil over good
the doctrine that this world is corrupt and that man's sojourn in it is a preparation for some other existence
Derived Formspessimist, nounpessimistic or rare pessimistical, adjectivepessimistically, adverb

Word Origin for pessimism

C18: from Latin pessimus worst, from malus bad
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 pessimism

1794 "worst condition possible," borrowed (by Coleridge) from French pessimisme, formed (on model of French optimisme) from Latin pessimus "worst," originally "bottom-most," from PIE *ped-samo-, superlative of root *pes- "foot" (see foot (n.)). As a name given to the doctrines of Schopenhauer, Hartmann, etc., that this is the worst possible world, or that everything tends toward evil, it is first recorded 1835, from German pessimismus (Schopenhauer, 1819). The attempt to make a verb of it as pessimize (1862) did not succeed.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper