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[som-ber] /ˈsɒm bər/
gloomily dark; shadowy; dimly lighted:
a somber passageway.
dark and dull, as color, or as things in respect to color:
a somber dress.
gloomy, depressing, or dismal:
a somber mood.
extremely serious; grave:
a somber expression on his face.
Also, especially British, sombre.
Origin of somber
1750-60; < French sombre, Middle French, probably noun derivative of *sombrer to make shady < Vulgar Latin *subumbrāre, equivalent to Latin sub- sub- + umbrāre to cast a shadow, derivative of umbra shade
Related forms
somberly, adverb
somberness, noun
unsomber, adjective
unsomberly, adverb
unsomberness, noun
1. dusky, murky, sunless. 3. lugubrious, mournful, doleful, melancholy.
1. bright. 3. cheerful. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2016.
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Examples from the Web for sombre
Historical Examples
  • The chorus, in the person of soldiers, once again draws attention to the sombre aspect of the Tetrarch.

    Oscar Wilde Leonard Cresswell Ingleby
  • "Rather a sombre place, I should say, for such a purpose," suggested Louis.

    Four Young Explorers Oliver Optic
  • One of his closest allies talks to Graham of 'your sombre temperament.'

  • Like red-hot iron, he is at the same time burning and sombre.

    En Route J.-K. (Joris-Karl) Huysmans
  • The irony of the situation was reflected with sombre and dramatic realism in a political cartoon which appeared in ‘Punch.’

    Lord John Russell Stuart J. Reid
  • I recognized, under the cowl, the thin, sallow face and the sombre eyes.

    Margaret Tudor Annie T. Colcock
  • "An' we're goin' to be snowed in, I think," said the Little Giant, looking at the sombre heavens.

    The Great Sioux Trail Joseph Altsheler
  • These tales, coloured by the surroundings, were of a sombre cast.

    The Life of Mrs. Robert Louis Stevenson Nellie van De Grift Sanchez
  • She was about Alison's own age, rather tall and slight, with dark, sombre eyes and dark heavy hair worn low on her forehead.

    Briarwood Girls Julia Lestarjette Glover
  • Their sombre countenance, their anxious look, attracted my attention.

British Dictionary definitions for sombre


dismal; melancholy: a sombre mood
dim, gloomy, or shadowy
(of colour, clothes, etc) sober, dull, or dark
Derived Forms
sombrely, (US) somberly, adverb
sombreness, (US) somberness, noun
sombrous (ˈsɒmbrəs) adjective
Word Origin
C18: from French, from Vulgar Latin subumbrāre (unattested) to shade, from Latin sub beneath + umbra shade
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for sombre

chiefly British English spelling of somber (q.v.); for spelling, see -re.



1760 "gloomy, shadowy" (earlier sombrous, c.1730), from French sombre "dark, gloomy," from Old French sombre (14c.), from an adjective from Late Latin subumbrare "to shadow," from sub "under" (see sub-) + umbra "shade, shadow," perhaps from a suffixed form of PIE *andho- "blind, dark" (see umbrage). Related: Somberly; somberness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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