Here's the quote written by Lucy Hawking, daughter of Stephen Hawking, about her father's funeral. "On the bleak greyness of a Cambridge spring day, we set off in a cortège of black cars towards Great St Mary’s Church, the university church where distinguished academics by tradition have their funeral services."

Does bleak mean "cold" or "not welcoming" or "sad" (the day was March 2014, is it cold in Cambridge at that time?) Does greyness mean "sadness" in the context? What will be the meaning of "bleak greyness" in the context in simple words.

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    The image is one of a barren, hopeless day, bereft of joy.
    – Robusto
    Dec 18, 2018 at 15:54

3 Answers 3


Here, bleak means exactly the same as it usually does:

(of the weather) cold and miserable.

And also, in situational terms,

(of a situation) not hopeful or encouraging; unlikely to have a favourable outcome.

Linking it to the fact the day is a funeral, which conveys sadness and melancholy, this also makes it pathetic fallacy, a literate device where the weather reflects the mood.

Greyness in weather terms means coldness and wetness, which are both linked to gloominess and depression. On 31 March 2018 in Cambridge, it was, at 12 o'clock, raining!. https://www.timeanddate.com/weather/uk/cambridge/historic?month=3&year=2018

So as well as being pathetic fallacy, it's also true!

So here bleak greyness means: The weather was literally grey, connoting miserableness

The mood was also bleak because it was a funeral, also reflecting the weather (pathetic fallacy).


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    Had Miss Hawking been Scottish rather than English she might have used the glorious Scots word dreich which is defined as Scottish (especially of weather) dreary; bleak. The Scots get more dreich days than we English do so have a special word for it!
    – BoldBen
    Dec 19, 2018 at 4:24

The phrase here is more literal than you might think. Spring in Cambridge can be extremely foggy, and, like most fogs, tends to be gray.

https://www.alamy.com/stock-photo-cambridge-on-a-foggy-morning-23810967.html Please forgive the quality of the photo - it's one of the only ones I could find that was expressly set in Cambridge and didn't require you to have a pinterest account to view properly.

That being the case, it's a poetic description which is both literal and emotional, although the emphasis here would appear to be on the emotional aspect.


Here BLEAK GRAYNESS refers to a depressingly overcast day of grey pall of mist— utterly hopeless, comfortless and dreary. Nature is heavy at heart at the bereavement. It is a literal device emplyed at its artistic excellence.

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