Definition of black bile in English:

black bile


  • [mass noun] (in medieval science and medicine) one of the four bodily humours, believed to be associated with a melancholy temperament.

    Also called melancholy
    • ‘OK, I could have put melancholy as a header (as it means the same thing) but black bile felt more dramatic, and followed on nicely from yesterday.’
    • ‘So if you've got an excess of black bile, you're melancholy; if there's a lot of blood running through you, you're sanguine.’
    • ‘Our bodies were thought to be composed of blood, phlegm, black bile, and yellow bile just as the world at large consisted of earth, air, fire, and water.’
    • ‘He subscribes, at least in part, to the ancient belief that diseases are caused by an imbalance in the body's four humors: yellow bile, black bile, blood, and phlegm.’
    • ‘Aristotle asked, ‘Why is it that all men who have become outstanding in philosophy, statesmanship, poetry, or the arts are melancholic, and some to such an extent that they are infected by the diseases arising from black bile?’’


Late 18th century: translation of Greek melankholia (see melancholy). Compare with atrabilious.