in Wacky Word Wednesday

Are you attentive, loyal, orderly, yet at the same time irritable, a perfectionist and emotionally sensitive? If yes, then you may have too much black bile in your body. After reading today’s Wacky Word Wednesday, we hope you’ll know more about what black bile is and how it could affect your underlying disposition.



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[a-truh-bil-yuh s]


Inclined to melancholy; gloomy; having an irritable and unpleasant disposition.

quo botatrabilious

Atrabilious is derived from the Latin atra bilis, ‘black bile,’ which is the direct equivalent of the Greek word that gave us melancholy. It refers to someone with an irritable or unpleasant attitude about life. Atrabilious is also one of the few words in English that uses the Latin word atra for black rather than niger.

Someone who is atrabilious most likely has a melancholic personality. According to Ancient Greek and Roman physicians, their melancholic temperament is caused by having too much black bile, one of the four humours of ancient medicine, in their body.  The others were blood, phlegm, and yellow bile, and each corresponds to sanguine (pleasure-seeking and sociable), phlegmatic (relaxed and thoughtful) and choleric (ambitious and leader-like).

This humorism theory may have originated in ancient Egypt or Mesopotamia, but it was the Greek physician Hippocrates who developed it into a medical theory in the 4th century BC. Although the humorism theory has been discarded in the field of medicine, many modern theories of psychology are still based upon the four personality types associated with the four humours.

As usual, we’ve provided a few examples using today’s wacky word:

  • The fact is, he was imaginative and atrabilious, contemplating life through a medium of the colour of his own complexion. (A Book Of Lands and Peoples by Eric Newby)
  • Conscious of his landlord’s atrabilious temperament, Daniel knew to wait
    until the moment was right before asking for an extension on the rent. (
  • Peter’s father lost his job because of the bad economy and, as a result, he has an atrabilious attitude about life in general. (Wordinfo)

So which of the four humours best describes your personality?

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