There is a special kind of experience which is not only boring but also depressing. However, I don't mean things which are so boring that they are depressing, i.e their depressing nature stems from just how unbelievably boring they are (I suppose I'd describe something like that as "depressingly boring").

Of course, not all things which are depressing are boring (cf. Requiem for a Dream, American History X). However, there are some things which are so boring and depressing that each quality seems to amplify and feed off the other in an unholy symbiosis. This is the difference between e.g. listening to a sad, boring person drone on for two hours about accounting practices and listening to said person drone on for two hours about accounting practices used by some government to launder money which is used for torturing and killing people.

How can I describe something like this (e.g. with a particular adjective, phrase, whatever) without writing a whole paragraph like I just did?


4 Answers 4


Consider bleak (MWD)

  1. exposed and barren and often windswept a bleaklandscape bleak soils
  2. cold, raw a bleak November evening
  3. a) lacking in warmth, life, or kindliness :  grim a bleakprison documentary b)  not hopeful or encouraging :  depressing a bleak prognosisa bleak outlook the future looks bleak c) severely simple or austere a bleak hotel room

I don't know if it's quite as strong as you want, but dreary comes close. From Oxford Dictionaries:

Dull, bleak, and lifeless; depressing.

Dull is, I think, pretty close to boring, and depressing goes along with it. I think this adjective can be applied to experiences that are so dull they're depressing, so unrelentingly depressing that they're boring, and also those that are simultaneously boring and depressing.

If you wanted to clarify your meaning, you could add an intensifier; for example:

His two-hour harangue about the accounting practices of Corrupterroristia was unrelentingly dreary.

One of the synonyms of dreary might work for you, as well. Merriam-Webster has a good discussion of synonyms, here. Dismal seems especially likely, but depending on your particular context you might prefer cheerless, glum, tenebrous, etc.


In your example you might try:

The boring delivery served to exacerbate how depressing the subject matter was.


Make (a problem, bad situation, or negative feeling) worse.


For other cases you could simply replace delivery with the cause generating the boredom.


The boring passage of time served to exacerbate how depressing the subject matter was.

  • This is not about making anything worse. We cannot make changes to introduce a word. If exacerbate were a fit, there would be many more options. The question asks for an adjective or noun that describe a concept as boring and depressing.
    – vickyace
    Apr 17, 2017 at 13:41
  • @vickyace No it doesn't. "How can I describe something like this (e.g. with a particular adjective, phrase, whatever) without writing a whole paragraph like I just did?" Note the use of the word, phrase.
    – Gary
    Apr 17, 2017 at 13:59
  • Here is a thought. Okay. How does this account for the depressing and boring part? You have used both the adjectives, depressing and boring, separately and then introduced a verb to escalate it, instead of substituting a single word for all of it, which the OP is looking.
    – vickyace
    Apr 17, 2017 at 14:42
  • @vickyace perhaps that's because I happen to know there is no single word for 'all of it'. Also I repeat the OP is not looking for a single word, methinks the phrase request tag makes that overtly clear.
    – Gary
    Apr 17, 2017 at 15:32
  • @Gary Yes, I did also ask for phrases, but simply saying "depressing and boring" doesn't quite cut it-- not even having the same semantics as what I described in the OP. However, if you are familiar with the semantics of all estimated ~200,000 established words and every collocation of each, are you in the Guinness Book of World Records? Apr 18, 2017 at 14:36

Looking at the specific example you give, the phrase the banality of evil comes to mind. It originates in a book reporting on Eichmann's trial:

Arendt's [the author's] book introduced the expression and concept "the banality of evil". Her thesis is that Eichmann was not a fanatic or sociopath, but an extremely average person who relied on clichéd defenses rather than thinking for himself and was motivated by professional promotion rather than ideology. Banality, in this sense, is not that Eichmann's actions were ordinary, or that there is a potential Eichmann in all of us, but that his actions were motivated by a sort of stupidity which was wholly unexceptional.

The phrase is probably a bit too well-worn to actually use, though.

Horror of the mundane is also relevant, and perhaps slightly less clichéd, though its sense is more opposite - where ordinary circumstances and worry evoke strong worry and fear, rather than the dreary grisly detail of an audit on a mass murder, where extraordinary, horrific circumstances become banal in their dissection and rationalisation. (Note I may have the sense of this phrase wrong - I couldn't find any clear examples in dictionaries or in the wild.)

I think you may have to roll your own here, for instance: a sinking insipid terror; a dull, desperate dread; stale and hideous dronings.

One approach would be to check a thesaurus for boring and evil (and similar entries) and try words together until you get a grouping you like.

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