adj. sad·der, sad·dest
1. Showing, expressing, or feeling sorrow or unhappiness: a sad face.
2. Causing sorrow or gloom; depressing: a sad movie; sad news.
3. Deplorable or inadequate; sorry: a sad state of affairs; a sad excuse.
4. Dark-hued; somber.
[Middle English, weary, sorrowful, from Old English sæd, sated, weary; see sā- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
Synonyms: sad, melancholy, sorrowful, doleful, woebegone, desolate
These adjectives mean affected with or marked by unhappiness, as that caused by affliction. Sad is the most general: "Better by far you should forget and smile / Than that you should remember and be sad" (Christina Rossetti).
Melancholy can refer to lingering or habitual somberness or sadness: a melancholy poet's gloomy introspection. Sorrowful applies to emotional pain as that resulting from loss: sorrowful mourners at the funeral. Doleful describes what is mournful or morose: the doleful expression of a reprimanded child. Woebegone suggests grief or wretchedness, especially as reflected in a person's appearance: "His sorrow ... made him look ... haggard and ... woebegone" (George du Maurier).
Desolate applies to one that is beyond consolation: "Now she was desolate, a widow in a foreign country" (Nigel Hamilton).
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
The American Heritage Dictionary Blog
Check out our blog, updated regularly, for new words and revised definitions, interesting images from the 5th edition, discussions of usage, and more.