A jeremiad is a literary work or speech expressing bitter lament, prophecies of doom, or mournful complaints about society. The noun, which came to English via from French jérémiade, is inspired by the Biblical figure of Jeremiah, a prophet who is supposed to have written some of the more mournful sections of the Old Testament.
Jeremiah is sometimes used as a noun to denote a person who habitually prophesies doom or denounces society. Jeremiad only denotes a literary work or speech, never a person. Some writers capitalize it, and some do not.
Jeremiad is often subtly derisive. Often the person delivering the jeremiad is implied to have an inflated sense of self-importance. But as the examples below show, the word’s meaning is not completely negative. It often implies that the writer or speaker has an admirable sense of conviction.
As a doomsayer from the start … I have recently been reluctant to burden my readers with more jeremiads about the euro. [Telegraph]
In a scathing Memorial Day jeremiad against American foreign policy, Andrew Bacevich argues that elected officials are exploiting the troops. [Atlantic]
You’ve been swamped under a steady shower of jeremiads lamenting the death of news-print publishing. [Daily Maverick]
Our Posthuman Future was a still more powerful jeremiad against nihilism, perceived this time in biotechnological terms. [City Journal]