Words related to melano-

maulstick (n.)

"light stick used by painters to support the painting hand," 1650s, from Dutch maalstok, literally "painting stick," from mallen "to paint," from Proto-Germanic *mal- (source also of Old Norse mæla, Old High German malon "trace, draw, paint," German malen "to paint"), from mal "spot, mark, stain," perhaps from the same root as Greek melas "black" (see melano-), but the original sense is not color but marking. With stock "stick" (see stock (n.1)).

melancholy (n.)

c. 1300, melancolie, malencolie, "mental disorder characterized by sullenness, gloom, irritability, and propensity to causeless and violent anger," from Old French melancolie "black bile; ill disposition, anger, annoyance" (13c.), from Late Latin melancholia, from Greek melankholia "sadness," literally (excess of) "black bile," from melas (genitive melanos) "black" (see melano-) + khole "bile" (see cholera).

Old medicine attributed mental depression to unnatural or excess "black bile," a secretion of the spleen and one of the body's four "humors," which help form and nourish the body unless altered or present in excessive amounts. The word also was used in Middle English for "sorrow, gloom" (brought on by love, disappointment, etc.), by mid-14c. As belief in the old physiology of humors faded out in the 18c. the word remained with a sense of "a gloomy state of mind," particularly when habitual or prolonged.

The Latin word also is the source of Spanish melancolia, Italian melancolia, German Melancholie, Danish melankoli, etc. Old French variant malencolie (also in Middle English) is by false association with mal "sickness."

When I go musing all alone,
Thinking of divers things fore-known,
When I build castles in the air,
Void of sorrow and void of fear,
Pleasing myself with phantasms sweet,
Methinks the time runs very fleet.
   All my joys to this are folly,
   Naught so sweet as melancholy.
When I lie waking all alone,
Recounting what I have ill done,
My thoughts on me then tyrannise,
Fear and sorrow me surprise,
Whether I tarry still or go,
Methinks the time moves very slow.
   All my griefs to this are jolly,
   Naught so sad as melancholy.
[Robert Burton, from "Anatomy of Melancholy," 17c.]

one of three large divisions of western Pacific islands, 1840, from French Mélanésie (by 1835); see melano- "black" + nēsos "island" (see Chersonese) + -ia. Modeled after Polynesia and meant to signify "the islands inhabited by blacks."

La Melanesia comprende la grande isola Australia, e quelle degli arcipelaghi di Salomone, di Lapèrouse, di Quiros, e dei gruppi della Nuova Caledonia, di Norfolk, e della Diemenin. A cagione dei Neri Oceanici, che, quasi esclusivamente, ne popolano le regioni, questa parte della Oceania ebbe dai moderni geografi e viaggiatori (il Graberg, il Rienzi, il d'Urville, ec.) il nome di Melanesia. ["Corso di Geografia Universale," Firenze, 1839]

Related: Melanesian (1835, n., "a native of Melanesia;" 1840, adj., "of or belonging to Melanesia or the peoples inhabiting it").


fem. proper name, literally "darkness, blackness," from Latin Melania, from Greek melania "blackness," from melas "black, dark" (see melano-). little used in U.S. before 1940, most popular in 1970s. Melanius was a Roman masc. proper name.

melanin (n.)

dark brown or black pigment found in animal bodies, 1832, Modern Latin, with chemical suffix -in (2); the first element is from Greek melas (genitive melanos) "black" (see melano-). Related: Melanism; melanistic.

melanism (n.)

"an undue development of coloring material in the skin," especially in mammals or birds; the opposite of albinism (and the word probably based on it), by 1827; see melano- + -ism. Related: Melanistic.

melanoma (n.)

"tumor containing melanin," 1826, medical Latin, from Greek melas (genitive melanos) "black" (see melano-) + -oma. Greek melanōma meant "blackness."

melanosis (n.)

"abnormal deposition of pigmentary matter in organs or parts of the body," by 1815, medical Latin, from Greek melanosis "a becoming black," from melanoun "to become black," from melas (genitive melanos); see melano-. Related: Melanotic.

melatonin (n.)

chemical formed in the pineal gland of mammals that regulates certain physiological activities, 1958, from Greek melas "black, dark" (see melano-) + ending from serotonin. So called because its secretion is inhibited by sunlight, or because it changes the skin color of certain reptiles and amphibians.


country in Eastern Europe, named for the river through it, probably from a PIE word meaning "dark, darkish color, soiled, black" (see melano-).