- a European freshwater fish, Alburnus alburnus, having scales with a silvery pigment that is used in the production of artificial pearls.
- exposed and barren; desolate
- cold and raw
- offering little hope or excitement; dismala bleak future
- any slender silvery European cyprinid fish of the genus Alburnus, esp A. lucidus, occurring in slow-flowing rivers
c.1300, “pale,” from Old Norse bleikr “pale, whitish, blond,” from Proto-Germanic *blaika- “shining, white,” from PIE root *bhel- (1) “to shine, flash, burn” (see bleach (v.)). Later “bare, windswept” (1530s). Sense of “cheerless” is c.1719 figurative extension. The same Germanic root produced Old English blac “pale,” but this died out, probably from confusion with blæc “black;” however bleak persisted, with a sense of “bare” as well as “pale.”