Word of the Day


© Getty
Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter


1. soft and warm in colour

2. with a smooth full taste

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

Origin and usage

The adjective mellow was first used in English in the mid 15th century. Its origin is obscure. It may derive from the noun ‘meal’ meaning crushed grain, or perhaps from the obsolete adjective ‘merrow’ meaning  soft or weak. The related verb was first used in the late 16th century, while various noun uses date from the 20th century.


The adjective mellow has a number of different meanings related to qualities such as softness, smoothness and gentleness. Mellow food and drink has a smooth and rounded flavour, while a mellow person is relaxed and easy to be around. The related verb most often refers to people becoming gentler and more approachable; typically people are said to mellow with age and experience, especially when they have been abrasive or difficult in their youth. The verb mellow also refers to things such as colours and flavours, which become softer and more muted with age. There is also a phrasal verb mellow out,  which refers to people becoming calmer and more relaxed. A meaning of mellow that was current until the late 19th century but is little used these days refers to fruit that is ripe, soft and sweet. In short, mellow is a very appropriate word to describe the season of autumn, which has just started in the northern hemisphere.


“Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run.”
(John Keats, To Autumn)

Related words

rich, soft, smooth, full

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

About the author

Liz Potter

Liz Potter

Leave a Comment