Medical Definition of Bilious

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Bilious: The adjective for bile, bilious has three meanings. It means of or relating to bile. By extension, bilious means suffering from liver dysfunction (and especially excessive secretion of bile). And, further by extension, it is indicative of a peevish ill-natured disposition.

The word "bilious" goes back to the old belief that there were four bodily humors (black bile, yellow bile, phlegm, and blood) and these four humors determined a person's temperament. "Bilious" was the personality type associated with an excess of yellow bile. The word "bilious" derives from the French "bilieux," which in turn came from "bilis," the Latin term for "bile."

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Reviewed on 12/27/2018

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