melancholiac (n.) Look up melancholiac at
1863, from melancholy. Earlier in same sense was melancholian (mid-14c.).
melancholic (adj.) Look up melancholic at
late 14c., from melancholy + -ic, or else from Late Latin melancholicus, from Greek melankholikos "choleric," from melankholia "sadness" (see melancholy). As a noun, from 1580s. Earlier adjective formation was melancholian (mid-14c.), and melancholiac (mid-19c.) also was tried.
melancholy (n.) Look up melancholy at
c. 1300, "condition characterized by sullenness, gloom, irritability," from Old French melancolie "black bile, ill disposition, anger, annoyance" (13c.), from Late Latin melancholia, from Greek melankholia "sadness," literally (excess of) "black bile," from melas (genitive melanos) "black" (see melanin) + khole "bile" (see Chloe). Medieval physiology attributed depression to excess of "black bile," a secretion of the spleen and one of the body's four "humors."

The Latin word also is the source of Spanish melancolia, Italian melancolia, German Melancholie, Danish melankoli, etc. Old French variant malencolie (also in Middle English) is by false association with mal "sickness."
melancholy (adj.) Look up melancholy at
late 14c., "with or caused by black bile; sullen, gloomy, sad," from melancholy (n.); sense of "deplorable" (of a fact or state of things) is from 1710.
Melanesia Look up Melanesia at
one of three large divisions of Pacific islands, 1840, from a continental language, from melano- + nesos "island" (see Chersonese) + -ia. Modeled after Polynesia and meant to signify "the islands inhabited by blacks."
La Melanesia comprende la grande isola Australia, e quelle degli arcipelaghi di Salomone, di Lapèrouse, di Quiros, e dei gruppi della Nuova Caledonia, di Norfolk, e della Diemenin. A cagione dei Neri Oceanici, che, quasi esclusivamente, ne popolano le regioni, questa parte della Oceania ebbe dai moderni geografi e viaggiatori (il Graberg, il Rienzi, il d'Urville, ec.) il nome di Melanesia. ["Corso di Geografia Universale," Firenze, 1839]
Melanesian (adj.) Look up Melanesian at
1840, from Melanesia + -ian.
melange (n.) Look up melange at
1650s, from French mélange (15c.), from mêler "to mix, mingle," from Old French mesler (see meddle).
melanin (n.) Look up melanin at
dark brown or black pigment found in animal bodies, 1832, Modern Latin, with chemical suffix -in (2); first element from Greek melas (genitive melanos) "black," from PIE root *mel- (2) "of darkish color" (source also of Sanskrit malinah "dirty, stained, black," Lithuanian melynas "blue," Latin mulleus "reddish"). Related: Melanism; melanistic.
melanism (n.) Look up melanism at
1843, from melano- + -ism.
melano- Look up melano- at
word-forming element meaning "black," from Greek melano-, comb. form of melas (genitive melanos) "black, dark, murky" (see melanin).
melanoma (n.) Look up melanoma at
"tumor containing melanin," 1826, medical Latin, from Greek melas (genitive melanos) "black" (see melanin) + -oma.
melanosis (n.) Look up melanosis at
1823, medical Latin, from Greek melanosis "a becoming black," from melanoun "to become black," from melas (genitive melanos); see melanin. Related: Melanotic.
melatonin (n.) Look up melatonin at
1958, from Greek melas "black, dark" (see melanin) + ending from serotonin. So called because its secretion is inhibited by sunlight.
Melba Look up Melba at
in various food preparations, especially peach Melba (1905) and Melba toast (1925) is in honor of Nellie Melba, stage name (based on Melbourne, Australia) of Australian-born operatic soprano Helen Mitchell (1861-1931).
Melbourne Look up Melbourne at
city in Australia, named 1837 for William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne (1779-1848) then British Prime Minister; the title is from Melbourne Hall, Derbyshire. The place name is literally "mill stream," Old English Mileburne (1086).
Melchior Look up Melchior at
masc. proper name, literally "king of light," from Hebrew melekh "king" + or "light."
Melchizedek Look up Melchizedek at
name of a priest-king in the Old Testament, from Hebrew Malki-tzedeq, literally "king of righteousness," from melekh "king;" second element related to tzadaq "he was righteous," tzaddiq "just, righteous."
meld (v.) Look up meld at
"to blend together, merge, unite" (intransitive), by 1910, of uncertain origin. OED suggests "perh. a blend of MELT v.1 and WELD v." Said elsewhere to be a verb use of melled "mingled, blended," past participle of dialectal mell "to mingle, mix, combine, blend."
[T]he biplane grew smaller and smaller, the stacatto clatter of the motor became once more a drone which imperceptibly became melded with the waning murmur of country sounds .... ["Aircraft" magazine, October 1910]
But it is perhaps an image from card-playing, where the verb meld is attested by 1907 in a sense of "combine two cards for a score:"
Upon winning a trick, and before drawing from the stock, the player can "meld" certain combinations of cards. [rules for two-hand pinochle in "Hoyle's Games," 1907]
The rise of the general sense of the word in English coincides with the craze for canasta, in which melding figures. The card-playing sense is said to be "apparently" from German melden "make known, announce," from Old High German meldon, from Proto-Germanic *meldojan (source of Old English meldian "to declare, tell, display, proclaim"), and the notion is of "declaring" the combination of cards. Related: Melded; melding.
melee (n.) Look up melee at
1640s, from French mêlée, from Old French meslee "brawl, confused fight; mixture, blend" (12c.), noun use of fem. past participle of mesler "to mix, mingle" (see meddle). See also medley. Borrowed in Middle English as melle but lost and then reborrowed 17c.
meliorate (v.) Look up meliorate at
1550s, "to make better," back-formation from melioration or else from Late Latin melioratus, past participle of Latin meliorare "improve," from melior "better," used as comparative of bonus "good," but probably originally meaning "stronger," from PIE root *mel- "strong, great, numerous" (see multi-). Related: Meliorated; meliorating; melioration; meliorative.
melioration (n.) Look up melioration at
c. 1400, "improvement," from Late Latin meliorationem (nominative melioratio), noun of action from past participle stem of Latin meliorare (see meliorate).
meliorism (n.) Look up meliorism at
"belief that the world tends to become better," 1868, from Latin melior (see meliorate) + -ism. Related: Meliorist (1835).
melisma (n.) Look up melisma at
1837, from Greek melisma "a song, an air, a tune, melody," from melos "music, song, melody; musical phrase or member," literally "limb," from PIE *mel- "a limb." Related: Melismatic.
Melissa Look up Melissa at
fem. proper name, from Latin, from Greek (Ionic) melissa (Attic melitta) "honeybee," also "one of the priestesses of Delphi," from PIE *melit-ya, suffixed form of *melit- "honey" (source also of Greek meli, Latin mel "honey; sweetness;" Albanian mjal' "honey;" Old Irish mil "honey," Irish milis "sweet;" Old English mildeaw "nectar," milisc "honeyed, sweet;" Old High German milsken "to sweeten;" Gothic miliþ "honey").
mell (v.) Look up mell at
"to mix, meddle," c. 1300, mellen, from Old French meller, variant of mesler (see meddle). Related: Melled; melling.
mellifluent (adj.) Look up mellifluent at
c. 1600, from Middle French mellifluent and directly from Late Latin mellifluentem (nominative mellifluens), related to mellifluus (see mellifluous).
mellifluous (adj.) Look up mellifluous at
early 15c., "sweet, pleasing" (of an odor, a style of speaking or writing, etc.), from Late Latin mellifluus "flowing with (or as if with) honey," from Latin mel (genitive mellis) "honey" (related to Greek meli "honey;" see Melissa) + -fluus "flowing," from fluere "to flow" (see fluent). Related: Melifluously; melifluousness.
Mellotron (n.) Look up Mellotron at
type of electronic musical instrument, 1963, from mello(w) + (elec)tron(ic).
mellow (adj.) Look up mellow at
mid-15c., melwe "soft, sweet, juicy" (of ripe fruit), perhaps related to melowe, variant of mele "ground grain" (see meal (2)), influenced by Middle English merow "soft, tender," from Old English mearu. Meaning "slightly drunk" is from 1680s. Mellow yellow "banana peel smoked in an effort to get high" is from 1967. Related: Mellowly; mellowness.
mellow (v.) Look up mellow at
1570s, from mellow (adj.). Related: Mellowed; mellowing.
melodeon (n.) Look up melodeon at
1847, variant of melodion, from German Melopdoin, from Melodie, from Old French melodie (see melody).
melodic (adj.) Look up melodic at
1818, from French mélodique, from Late Latin melodicus, from Greek melodikos, from melodia (see melody).
melodious (adj.) Look up melodious at
late 14c., from Old French melodios "melodious; delightful" (French mélodieux), from Medieval Latin melodiosus, from Latin melodia (see melody). Related: Melodiously; melodiousness.
melodise (v.) Look up melodise at
see melodize; also see -ize. Related: Melodised; melodising.
melodize Look up melodize at
1660s, from melody + -ize. Related: Melodized; melodizing.
melodrama (n.) Look up melodrama at
1784 (1782 as melo drame), "a stage-play in which songs were interspersed and music accompanied the action," from French mélodrame (18c.), from Greek melos "song" (see melody) + French drame "drama" (see drama). Meaning "a romantic and sensational dramatic piece with a happy ending" is from 1883, because this was often the form of the original melodramas. Also from French are Spanish melodrama, Italian melodramma, German melodram. Related: Melodramatize.
The melodramatist's task is to get his characters labelled good & wicked in his audience's minds, & to provide striking situations that shall provoke & relieve anxieties on behalf of poetic justice. [Fowler]
melodramatic (adj.) Look up melodramatic at
1776; from foreign source of melodrama on model of dramatic. Related: Melodramatically.
melody (n.) Look up melody at
late 13c., from Old French melodie "music, song, tune" (12c.), from Late Latin melodia, from Greek meloidia "a singing, a chanting, choral song, a tune for lyric poetry," from melos "song, part of song" (see melisma) + oide "song, ode" (see ode).
melon (n.) Look up melon at
late 14c., from Old French melon (13c.), from Medieval Latin melonem (nominative melo), from Latin melopeponem, a kind of pumpkin, from Greek melopepon "gourd-apple" (name for several kinds of gourds bearing sweet fruit), from melon "apple" (see malic) + pepon, a kind of gourd, probably noun use of pepon "ripe" (see pumpkin).

In Greek, melon was used in a generic way for all foreign fruits (compare similar use of apple). The Greek plural of "melon" was used from ancient times for "a girl's breasts."
Melpomene Look up Melpomene at
Muse of tragedy, from Latin, from Greek Melpomene, literally "songstress," from melpein "to sing," of unknown origin.
melt (v.) Look up melt at
Old English meltan "become liquid, consume by fire, burn up" (class III strong verb; past tense mealt, past participle molten), from Proto-Germanic *meltanan; fused with Old English gemæltan (Anglian), gemyltan (West Saxon) "make liquid," from Proto-Germanic *gamaltijan (source also of Old Norse melta "to digest"), both from PIE *meldh-, (source also of Sanskrit mrduh "soft, mild," Greek meldein "to melt, make liquid," Latin mollis "soft, mild"), from root *mel- "soft," with derivatives referring to soft or softened (especially ground) materials (see mild). Figurative use by c. 1200. Related: Melted; melting.

Of food, to melt in (one's) mouth is from 1690s. Melting pot is from 1540s; figurative use from 1855; popularized with reference to America by play "The Melting Pot" by Israel Zangwill (1908).
melt (n.) Look up melt at
1854, "molten metal," from melt (v.). In reference to a type of sandwich topped by melted cheese, 1980, American English.
meltdown (n.) Look up meltdown at
by 1937 in the ice-cream industry; by 1956 in reference to a nuclear reactor, from verbal phrase, from melt (v.) + down (adv.). Metaphoric extension since 1979.
Melvin Look up Melvin at
masc. proper name, from Old English Mælwine, literally "friend of the council," from mæl "council," from Proto-Germanic *mathla- (see blackmail) + wine "friend" (related to winnan "to strive, struggle, fight;" see win (v.)).
member (n.) Look up member at
late 13c., "sex organ" (compare Latin membrum virile, but in English originally of women as well as men), also, "body part or organ" (in plural, "the body"), from Old French membre "part, portion; topic, subject; limb, member of the body; member" (of a group, etc.)," 11c., from Latin membrum "limb, member of the body, part," probably from PIE *mems-ro, from root *mems- "flesh, meat" (source also of Sanskrit mamsam "flesh;" Greek meninx "membrane," meros "thigh" (the "fleshy part"); Gothic mimz "flesh"). In English, sense of "person belonging to a group" is first attested early 14c., from notion of "constituent part of a complex structure." Meaning "one who has been elected to parliament" is from early 15c.
membership (n.) Look up membership at
1640s, "state of being a member," from member + -ship. Meaning "number of members" is from 1850.
membrane (n.) Look up membrane at
early 15c., "thin layer of skin or tissue," a term in anatomy, from Latin membrana "a skin, membrane; parchment (skin prepared for writing)," from membrum "limb, member of the body" (see member). The etymological sense is "that which covers the members of the body."
membranous (adj.) Look up membranous at
1590s, from Middle French membraneux (16c.), from membrane, from Latin membrana (see membrane).
meme (n.) Look up meme at
1976, introduced by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins in "The Selfish Gene," coined by him from Greek sources, such as mimeisthai "to imitate" (see mime), and intended to echo gene.
We need a name for the new replicator, a noun that conveys the idea of a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation. 'Mimeme' comes from a suitable Greek root, but I want a monosyllable that sounds a bit like 'gene'. I hope my classicist friends will forgive me if I abbreviate mimeme to meme. If it is any consolation, it could alternatively be thought of as being related to 'memory', or to the French word même. It should be pronounced to rhyme with 'cream'. [Richard Dawkins, "The Selfish Gene," 1976]
memento (n.) Look up memento at
c. 1400, "Psalm cxxxi in the Canon of the Mass" (which begins with the Latin word Memento and in which the dead are commemorated), from Latin memento "remember," imperative of meminisse "to remember, recollect, think of, bear in mind," a reduplicated form, related to mens "mind" (see mind (n.)). Meaning "reminder, object serving as a warning" is from 1580s; sense of "keepsake" is first recorded 1768.