bleak (adj.)

c. 1300, bleik, "pale, pallid," from Old Norse bleikr "pale, whitish, blond," from Proto-Germanic *blaika- "shining, white" (source also of Old Saxon blek "pale, shining," Dutch bleek, Old High German bleih, German bleich), from PIE root *bhel- (1) "to shine, flash, burn," also "shining white."

The original English sense is obsolete; the meaning "bare, windswept" is from 1530s; figurative sense of "cheerless" is from c. 1719. The same Germanic root produced Middle English blake "pale" (Old English blac), but this fell from use, probably from confusion with blæc "black" (the surname Blake can mean either "one of pale complexion" or "one of dark complexion"). Bleak has survived, not in the "pale" sense, but meaning only "bare, barren." Related: Bleakly; bleakness.

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Definitions of bleak from WordNet

bleak (adj.)
offering little or no hope; "Life in the Aran Islands has always been bleak and difficult"- J.M.Synge;
prospects were bleak
Synonyms: black / dim
bleak (adj.)
providing no shelter or sustenance;
the bleak treeless regions of the high Andes
Synonyms: bare / barren / desolate / stark
bleak (adj.)
unpleasantly cold and damp;
bleak winds of the North Atlantic
Synonyms: cutting / raw