accidie, n.

Physical or mental slothfulness, esp. as a condition leading to listlessness and lack of interest in life; apathy, lethargy, torpor; (also) †an instance of this (obs.).

Regarded esp. in early use as characteristic of or equivalent to the ‘deadly sin’ of Sloth, and in Christian asceticism as a condition to which monks and hermits were particularly liable.

?c1225  (1200)    Ancrene Riwle (Cleo. (1972) 155   Þenne is hit scheomeles [read ȝemeles] under accidie, þet ich slauðe cleopede, þe ne warneð oðer of his lure oðer of his biȝete.

c1330  (1300)    Speculum Guy (Auch.) l. 121   Accedie is as sleuþes broþer, Wicke on and wicke oþer.

a1393    Gower Confessio Amantis (Fairf.) iv. l. 539   To serve Accidie in his office, Ther is of Slowthe an other vice, Which cleped is Foryetelnesse.

c1400  (1378)    Langland Piers Plowman (Laud 581) (1869) B. v. 366   And after al þis excesse he had an accidie, Þat he slepe saterday and sonday.

1484    Caxton tr. Order of Chivalry 81   A man that hath accydye or slouthe hath sorowe and angre the whyle that he knoweth that an other man doth wel.

a1500    W. Hilton Mixed Life (Royal) in G. G. Perry Eng. Prose Treat. (1921) 23   Breke doune also‥flesshely likynges, oþer in accidie or in bodili ease.

a1586    Lindsay MS f. 76v, in Dict. Older Sc. Tongue at Surmount,   Quha that will overcum & surmont accidie him behuffit that in his hart he haue strenth.

1649    J. Gaule Serm. Saints judging World 13   That’s an humility or modesty reprehensible (both for dejectednesse, and pusillanimity, as also for accidie and sloathfulnesse) that shall lesse it self to Gods gifts and graces.

1775    J. Ash New & Compl. Dict. Eng. Lang.,   Accidie, sloth.

1858    A. J. Penny Afternoon of Unmarried Life xiv. 254   Will any one with the experience of middle age deny that there is much in every-day life calculated to produce accidie?

1891    F. Paget (title)    The spirit of discipline‥with an‥essay concerning Accidie.

1936    H. G. Wells Anat. Frustration vi. 54   There is nothing before you but sloth and apathy, accidie, which is a lingering suicide.

1961    K. Amis Let. 9 Apr. (2000) 590   Vacation accidie is upon me. I’m supposed to be writing this perishing film-script—haven’t touched it yet.

2006    Antigonish Rev. Summer 14   They knew their destiny but chose not to dwell on it, falling prey instead to a desperate, hopeless accidie.

Etymology:  < Anglo-Norman accidie (13th cent.), Anglo-Norman and Old French, Middle French accide (13th cent.; French accide , now arch.) < post-classical Latin accidia (8th cent. in a British source; also in an undated glossary; occasionally also as acidia and accedia ), alteration (see below) of acedia spiritual sloth, mental weariness (5th cent., as also as name of one of the deadly sins: see acedia n.). Compare accidia n., and later acedia n. and acedy n.

The post-classical Latin form accidia probably results either from folk-etymological association with accidere (see accident n.) or from a Greek sound change, or may partly reflect both causes. The rare form acidia probably reflects the (folk-etymological) association with classical Latin acidus sour (see acid adj.) recorded by Caesarius of Heisterbach (13th cent.). 

In Middle English and early modern English the position of the main stress apparently varied between the first and second syllables.

Source: Oxford English Dictionary, Third edition, October 2011; online version December 2011. <>; accessed 05 January 2012. An entry for this word was first included in New English Dictionary, 1884.