I googled antonym of optimistic and the results are gloomy, negative, defeatist, downbeat, gloom-ridden, cynical, bleak, fatalistic, dark, black,despairing, despondent, depressed, dejected,demoralized, hopeless, melancholy, glum,lugubrious, suspicious, distrustful, doubting, and alarmist. I am looking for a common and proper antonym of optimistic, which describes human. Is pessimistic a big word or a comman in colloqiial conversatuon? Also, dark seems refering to evil such as dark side and dark force in Star Wars the movie. Is it really a proper antonym of optimistic?

  • I never saw pessimistic. I am not sure it is a rare word or I just happen to never see it or ignote it. Is it a rare word?
    – Superuser
    Commented Feb 13, 2016 at 9:51
  • 1
    Thank you for your comment. I have narrowed it down. I hope it helps.
    – Superuser
    Commented Feb 13, 2016 at 11:06
  • I've deleted my comments since I've transferred the links to the answer :-)
    – Lucky
    Commented Feb 13, 2016 at 15:24

1 Answer 1


The (most) direct antonym of optimistic is pessimistic which can be used both to describe a person or something more abstract.

pessimistic observers

pessimistic expectation

How do you know (aside from looking at the definition and examples of usage) that this is a direct antonym of optimistic? It is listed as its antonym in thesauri such as ODO or thesaurus.com.

Is it a "big" word? Well, no bigger than optimistic. According to online etymology dictionary they originate from the same period (optimistic from 1845, pessimistic from 1866) and they came into English in the same way. Optimistic is from the word optimist, which came to English from French, and optimist is from optimism which originally came from Latin, but also via French. Etymoonline suggests the same path of origin for pessimistic: pessimism -> pessimist -> pessimistic.

This google Ngram suggests that optimistic is used somewhat more often than pessimistic, but these are two opposite words so I think that frequencies of usage are not directly comparable. On the other hand, pessimistic is used more often than defeatist e.g., which is one of the proposed antonyms for optimistic on your list.

Optimistic and pessimistic can be used in the same type of writing or speech, but of course with the opposite meaning. If you want something more colloquial you could try negative although it might have a slightly different meaning, and is a direct antonym of positive.

As for the word dark in the meaning "deeply pessimistic" it is more suitable for abstract nouns than for people:

a dark vision of the future

A folky lament on death and love, it never sounds as dark as its lyrics intend because of tremendous harmonies.

  • I appreciate your assistance. The ngram viewer you reveal is extremely helpful for people like me who study a English in a non-English country where English scenario is almost impossible. The website helps a lot to solve the major problem during almost drcades of my English learning.
    – Superuser
    Commented Feb 13, 2016 at 23:57
  • It was a pleasure :-). I've leant about most of these on-line language tools here, too. There's a great meta post Resources for learning English you might also like.
    – Lucky
    Commented Feb 14, 2016 at 3:59

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