Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Suggesting the horror of death and decay; gruesome: macabre tales of war and plague in the Middle Ages. See Synonyms at ghastly.
  • adj. Constituting or including a representation of death.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Representing or personifying death.
  • adj. Obsessed with death or the gruesome.
  • adj. Ghastly, shocking, terrifying.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. portraying human injury or death in a way so as to inspiring shock or horror; gruesome; ghastly.
  • adj. Pertaining to or portraying the grim aspects of death, or the allegorical dance of death.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adj. shockingly repellent; inspiring horror

Etymologies

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

Ultimately from Old French (Danse) Macabre, (dance) of death, perhaps alteration of Macabe, Maccabee, from Latin Maccabaeus, from Greek Makkabios.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From French macabre, whose etymology is uncertain.

Examples

  • It's difficult to describe the illustrations of Edward Gorey without using the word "macabre."

    NPR Topics: News

  • There is a certain macabre sense of voyeurism throughout The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, partly because the movie lays bare the inner workings of the imagination, but largely due to the fact that this film serves as the final film from Heath Ledger.

    Lauren Kalal | Fandomania

  • There is a certain macabre humour about it though.

    We`re a Couple Of Gems

  • I didn't pursue it with a Goth kid's reverence (and besides, anyone who tries to apply here who gives the boss a feeling that they like the Cure and use the word macabre more often than the next guy is swiftly shown the door), but with a sense of irony, or at least what my eighteen year old brain thought was a sense of irony.

    Throwaways

  • My first thought when I saw the babies and children was "how macabre is this?"

    Post-Mortem Portraiture

  • Look at it from a purely aesthetic standpoint and it may, have a certain macabre appeal.

    The Road to Wigan Pier

  • Especially one guy, who's subjected to ..., well, I'm not even going to tell you except to say that the word macabre applies.

    Archive 2007-04-08

  • "She looked at me and looked away," Stumpo told NEWSWEEK, as he recalled the macabre scene in an exclusive interview.

    Motherhood And Murder

  • The ANC Southern OFS region condemns in the strongest terms the macabre torture of Mr Aaron Balada Simanga and wishes to place on record that its members have nothing to do with the torture.

    ANC Daily News Briefing

  • But the marvellous, delight in which is one of the really serious elements in most boys, passed at times, those young readers still feeling its fascination, into what French writers call the macabre -- that species of almost insane pre-occupation with the materialities of our mouldering flesh, that luxury of disgust in gazing on corruption, which was connected, in this writer at least, with not a little obvious coarseness.

    Marius the Epicurean — Volume 1

Comments

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  • Were the Maccabees especially macabre?

    June 2, 2012

  • That etymology is fascinating.

    June 1, 2012

  • Shouldn't it be pronounced 'mac-kuh-ber' , you know, like how sabre is said as ' say-ber'?

    June 1, 2012

  • The OED gives the two pronunciations /məˈkɑːbrə/ and /məˈkɑːb/ in that order for BrE, and the AmE equivalents in the same order. This seems to me to miss the natural third possibility, /məˈkɑːbə/, but I assume they've done some sort of quantitative research and found that few people pronounce it that way. I doubt that many people 'mispronounce' it.

    August 4, 2008

  • I can't think of many words that are as often mispronounced as this one.

    August 4, 2008

  • Sounds like mu(h)-carb in Australia.

    November 22, 2007

  • Somehow it sounds more enigmatic to pronounce it "-cawb."

    November 22, 2007

  • We won't tell anyone. ;-)

    September 23, 2007

  • It's one of those words I never say aloud. But I always assumed it was pronounced "MAC uh bree." Hmm, maybe I shouldn't be admitting that here. ;-)

    September 22, 2007

  • I'm a big fan of it's when pronounced "muh-cawb" vs. "mu-ca-bruh".

    The implied "re" on the end really sings to me.

    September 22, 2007