Definition of macabre in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /məˈkäbrə/
Pronunciation: /məˈkäb/


Disturbing and horrifying because of involvement with or depiction of death and injury: a macabre series of murders
More example sentences
  • The story of secrecy, scientific ethics and national security is macabre, grisly and disturbing.
  • And what happened next was 70 persons butchered and burnt in a macabre dance of death.
  • The Archbishop Turpin, disturbed by this macabre turn of events, decided to examine the corpse.
gruesome, grisly, grim, gory, morbid, ghastly, unearthly, grotesque, hideous, horrific, shocking, dreadful, loathsome, repugnant, repulsive, sickening
black, weird, unhealthy
informal sick


Late 19th century: from French macabre, from Danse Macabre 'dance of death', from Old French, perhaps from Macabé 'a Maccabee', with reference to a miracle play depicting the slaughter of the Maccabees.

  • One of the medieval miracle plays presented the slaughter of the Maccabees, family members and supporters of Judus Maccabaeus, who led a religious revolt in Judaea in 165 bc. This gruesome event probably gave rise to macabre, ‘disturbing, horrifying’, originally in the phrase dance of macabre, a term for the dance of death ( see death). The name Maccabaeus may come from a Hebrew word meaning ‘hammer’.

Words that rhyme with macabre

candelabra, sabra

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: ma·ca·bre

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.