A Word A Day : Ennui

Tuesday, 15th January 2008 : Today's Word is ...


( Noun )

Pronunciation : on-wee

1. weariness and dissatisfaction with life that results from a loss of interest or sense of excitement

2. a feeling of utter weariness and discontent resulting from satiety or lack of interest

3. a general feeling of boredom and dissatisfaction

4. listlessness and dissatisfaction resulting from lack of interest


French, from Old French enui, from ennuyer, to annoy, bore

Word History:Were they alive today, users of Classical Latin might be surprised to find that centuries later a phrase of theirs still survives, although as a single word. The phrase mihi in odiō est (literally translated as to me in a condition of dislike or hatred is) meaning I hate or dislike gave rise to the Vulgar Latin verb inodiāre, to make odious the source of the Old French verb ennuyer or anoier, to annoy, bore. This was borrowed into English by around 1275 as anoien, our annoy. From the Old French verb a noun meaning worry, boredom was derived, which became ennui in modern French. This noun, with the sense boredom was borrowed into English in the 18th century, perhaps filling a need in polite, cultivated society.


apathy, blahs, blues, dejection, depression, dissatisfaction, doldrums, dumps, fatigue, ho hums, languidness, languor, lassitude, listlessness, melancholy, sadness, satiety, spiritlessness, surfeit, tedium, weariness, yawn, boredom, world-weariness,


energy, enthusiasm, excitement, liveliness

Contextual Examples:

• The servants relieved their ennui with gambling and gossip about their masters.

• The endless lecture produced an unbearable ennui.

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