Definition: showing a casual and cheerful indifference considered to be callous or improper, Heedless, careless. Freq. used to intensify following n. describing a negative quality; Exhibiting kindly feeling to others; kind, friendly, clement, gentle;
Blithe is an originally English word, starting from the Germanic Old English with similar roots in Middle-Dutch. The word’s meaning transitioned from the Gothic and Old Norse outward expression of kindly feeling, sympathy, and affection to the Old English’s external application of the word making it more observational in meaning.
In other words: one does not feel blithe or blithely anymore, but one is blithe according to our observations of them.
This word is a perfect example of the evolution of the English language. I put the most modern definition, first followed by the most arcane though the arcane version is only 200 years old. It was once a positive word, but is now used negatively.
Why this word?
I first heard this word just the other day in the Mother Goose poem Monday’s Child Is Fair of Face:
Monday’s child is fair of face,
Tuesday’s child is full of grace,
Wednesday’s child is full of woe,
Thursday’s child has far to go,
Friday’s child is loving and giving,
Saturday’s child works hard for a living,
And the child that is born on the Sabbath day
Is bonny and blithe, and good and gay.
I didn’t know what blithe meant, so I looked it up, and it blew my mind! I had been looking for a word to describe someone who was happy-go-lucky, but whose absentminded nature could be construed as crude–someone who wasn’t purposefully rude or hurtful, but wasn’t aware that their casual nature could be read as such.
How to use the word blithe in a sentence?
Do you have someone in your life who happily does something that affronts you or others, but does so with little malice as their motivation? They’re blithe! I would say that the character Mr. Bean, in general, or that 80-year-old woman, Cecilia Giménez, in Spain who did her local church a “favor” by “restoring” the fresco of Jesus in September of 2012 fit into this category.
“Amateur artist, Cecililia Giménez, took it upon herself to restore Elias Garcia Martinez’s century-old fresco, Ecco Homo. Her blithe ignorance left the fresco looking like a ‘a crayon sketch of a very hairy monkey in an ill-fitting tunic.'”
“He threw away the left-overs in my refrigerator with blithe disregard that I was saving them for dinner tonight.”