Definition of pessimism in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /ˈpɛsɪmɪz(ə)m/


[mass noun]
1A tendency to see the worst aspect of things or believe that the worst will happen: the dispute cast an air of deep pessimism over the future of the peace talks
More example sentences
  • The birth rate is the lowest in Europe, reflecting deep pessimism about the future and the astonishingly high cost of housing.
  • There's no cause for pessimism, we should believe in ourselves and use that self-belief to choose now and irrevocably the path of reform.
  • Despite my pessimism I still believe that the situation can be resolved.
defeatism, negative thinking, negativity, expecting the worst, doom and gloom, gloom, gloominess;
hopelessness, lack of hope, cynicism, fatalism, depression, despair, melancholy, despondency, dejection, angst, distrust, doubt;
German Weltschmerz
informal looking on the black side
2 Philosophy A belief that this world is as bad as it could be or that evil will ultimately prevail over good.
Example sentences
  • Kant's pessimism was based on his conception of the nature of living organisms.
  • If pessimism has a spiritual godfather it is perhaps the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer.
  • Schopenhauer was the high priest of philosophical pessimism.


Late 18th century: from Latin pessimus 'worst', on the pattern of optimism.

  • optimism from mid 18th century:

    Philosophers in the 18th century coined optimism for the theory that this is the best of all possible worlds. The word goes back to Latin optimum ‘best thing’. By the early 19th century it had gained wider currency, and was being used to mean a general tendency to hope for the best. The opposite, pessimism (from Latin pessimus ‘worst’), was also coined in the 18th century, when it meant ‘the worst possible state or condition’.

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: pes¦sim|ism

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.

Related Words