Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Melancholia

The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day is melancholia. Read on for what it means, how it’s used, and more.

What It Means

Melancholia refers to a feeling of sadness or depression. It is also used to refer to a sad tone or quality that one perceives in something, such as a work of art or literature. 

// He confessed to a bit of melancholia after the final performance—although he was proud of the successful Broadway run, he would miss his fellow cast members dearly.


“His last single, 2020’s ‘Finding Rest In a Weary World,’ was impressive but relatively subdued, tinged with ambient melancholia even as the beat hit its stride.” — Sue Park, Pitchfork, 18 Mar. 2022

Did You Know?

When is a word full of humor yet far from humorousMelancholia traces back to Greek melan- (“black, dark”) and cholē (“bile”). Medical practitioners once adhered to the system of humors—bodily fluids that included black bileyellow bileblood, and phlegm. An imbalance of these humors was thought to lead to disorders of the mind and body. One suffering from an excess of black bile (believed to be secreted by the kidneys or spleen) could become sullen, unsociable, and liable to depression. Today, doctors no longer ascribe physical and mental disorders to disruptions of the four humors, but the word melancholia is still used in psychiatry as a general term for despondency.

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