Jeremiad \jer-uh-MAHY-uhd\ or \jer-uh-MAHY-ad\ , noun;
1. A prolonged lamentation or mournful complaint
This word dates to 1780 and comes from French jérémiade in allusion to 'Lamentations of Jeremiah' in the Old Testament. The masculine proper name Jeremiah is from Hebrew Yarimyah, which is literally "may Jehovah exalt". The Latinized version is Jeremias and the English vernacular form is Jeremy.
Jeremiad is a long literary work, usually in prose and sometimes in poetry, in which the author bitterly laments the state of society and its morals and always contains a prophecy of imminent ruin. Some religious groups really like this method of information dissemination, notably the Puritans. It was also used by Frederick Douglass to lament the moral corruption slavery wrought on America. In modern usage jeremiad tends to be a pejorative term, hinting that the writer or speaker is being excessively pessimistic and overwrought.
The 'Lamentations of Jeremiah' are actually called the 'Book of Lamentations' and are attributed to the prophet Jeremiah as the author. The book is a series of poems that mourn the destruction of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple in the 6th century BCE. In Judaism the Lamentations (or Eikhah, "how", as the are called in the Hebrew canon) are recited on Tisha B'Av, which is a fast day to mourn the destruction of the first and second temples in Jerusalem.
So basically jeremiads are a formalized form of what those crazy guys with the big signs scream at you on university quads....