slough of despond

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Senior Member
Chinese,Cantonese,Sichuan dialect

I am wondering if the phrase is used in your word? According to Wikipedia, the capitalized phrase "The Slough of Despond" does mean something. But I also see the phrase could be used to mean "(formal) extreme depression"

Is it popular to use? I think it could be understood in literature rather than spoken English, am I right?

Thanks a lot
  • scrotgrot

    Senior Member
    English - English
    Yeah, it's a bit of a pretentious phrase for depression. Because the words are rather literary and melodramatic the phrase might be used to criticise someone who is wallowing in self-pity, such as Jimbo seems like he's in the slough of despond today. Must have broken up with his girlfriend yet again.

    According to Wikipedia it comes from the Christian morality novel Pilgrim's Progress, the Slough of Despond being a marsh into which the character sinks under the weight of his sins. Interestingly, I would have pronounced it /slʌf/, following rough, but Wikipedia wants /slaʊ/, following bough. says the /ʌf/ is for the sense meaninɡ shed(dinɡ) and /aʊ/ is for the noun meaninɡ marsh. The town of Slough in England is /aʊ/ for obvious derivational reasons.

    Misquotes such as slough of despair are also heard.
    Last edited:


    Senior Member
    USA - English
    For those with any familiarity whatsoever with what used to be considered the common canon of classic English literature, and who had what used to be considered an ordinary minimal education, the phrase is not in the least bit "pretentious", and it is immediately recognizable as an allusion to a book that at one time was almost as widely read among English-speakers as the Bible; namely, Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress.

    Just as the King James Version (or Authorized Version) of the Bible has become the source of many common figures of speech in English, in the same way Pilgrim's Progress is the source of many common figures of speech in English. Some of these are so familiar that they are used as the names of magazines - namely, Vanity Fair and House Beautiful. Another is 'muckraker', and another is -- the Slough of Despond.

    Note that in American English -- at least, for those of us of a certain age who had a decent education in the English classics and are therefore already familiar with the existence of Pilgrim's Progress and the names of the locations in it -- the world "slough" in "Slough of Despond" is pronounced as "slu", rhyming with''too" and "do".
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