[ pes-uh-miz-uh m ]
/ ˈpɛs əˌmɪz əm /


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.

Nearby words

  1. peshitta,
  2. pesky,
  3. peso,
  4. peso boliviano,
  5. pessary,
  6. pessimist,
  7. pessimistic,
  8. pessoa,
  9. pest,
  10. pest house

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

British Dictionary definitions for pessimism


/ (ˈpɛsɪˌmɪzəm) /


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