Great Words: Atrabilious

So, I came across this beautiful word a couple of days ago. I think it sounds quite pretentious when said out loud, but when written it looks quite elegant. Can you get away with using it in everyday conversation? So, try it out, go play! I’ve already used it myself here


1. Affected by black bile.
2. Inclined to melancholy.
3. Having a peevish disposition; surly, Irritable.

Mid 17th century
Literally – Affected by black bile (One of the four cardinal humours of the body, which is believed to cause melancholy). From Latin Atra Bilis (black bile), translation of Greek melankholia ‘melancholy’. (

IMG_2492.PNG (Image from

“And being now grown violent in his temper through the atrabilious tendency which increased upon him in his old age, he urged the Ephors and persuaded them to place a garrison in Thebes, and taking the commander’s place, he marched forth with a body of troops.” – Lysander by Plutarch

“Cold weather. Dyspeptic and atrabilious. Busy day, nevertheless.” – Journal of George Templeton Strong, 1864.


10 thoughts on “Great Words: Atrabilious

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  1. There’s so many words out there. I’m glad I can count on your blog to teach me a few I would never have found otherwise :). I could actually see myself using this word in my future pieces.

    1. Thank you. I’d be very happy if you did use it in your writing. I enjoy discovering new words, makes life more interesting. Although I do have a terrible memory, so usually forget them for my everyday vocabulary XD I’ll keep trying to find new interesting ones for us.

  2. I love learning new words (I don’t think I’ve ever come across this one before). They may as well just put my picture next to its definition in the dictionary. 😛

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