Word of the Day


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1. the feeling of having no hope

2. darkness in which it is difficult to see clearly

Origin and usage

Gloom first appeared in English in the early 15th century as a verb meaning to look sullen or displeased, to frown, and is thought to be related to a Middle German word ‘glûmen‘. The noun appeared much later and may in fact be a back-formation from the adjective gloomy rather than being derived directly from the verb.


The time of year when the clocks go back, leading to lighter mornings but earlier and darker evenings, especially on dull and cloudy days, fills many with gloom. The gloom of the outside world is mirrored in gloomy feelings in those with SAD or seasonal affective disorder, but also in many people whose low spirits fall far short of clinical depression.

SAD was formally described in 1984 by Norman E. Rosenthal, a South African psychiatrist, and his colleagues, but its contours have been familiar for much longer than that. Even though many aspects of the world described by the English poet Thomas Hood (1799-1845) in his poem November have changed beyond recognition, there is no doubt that he catches the feeling of late-autumn gloom exactly.


No sun – no moon!
No morn – no noon –
No dawn – no dusk – no proper time of day –
No sky – no earthly view –
No distance looking blue …

(Thomas Hood, November)

Related words

despair, darkness, blackness

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

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Macmillan Dictionary

Macmillan Dictionary

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