Definition of macabre in English:
- 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.
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’.
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