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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. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for sombre
Historical Examples
  • At this he looked with sombre intelligence and set it carefully aside.

    The Bacillus of Beauty Harriet Stark
  • "They soon lose their perfume," replied the sombre Old Year.

  • The lowered physiognomy of Mr Verloc expressed a sombre and weary annoyance.

    The Secret Agent Joseph Conrad
  • He entered in the clatter of the shop bell with an air of sombre and vexed exhaustion.

    The Secret Agent Joseph Conrad
  • His voice was sombre, because he had a correct sentiment of the situation.

    The Secret Agent Joseph Conrad
  • A sombre rage possessed them, and gave to their hearts a giant's daring.

    In the Valley Harold Frederic
  • I had returned from my adventure on the labour levels in a mood of sombre depression.

    City of Endless Night Milo Hastings
  • I know just what sort of a person he is—sombre and taciturn.

    A Woman Intervenes Robert Barr
  • Determined, deadly, sombre, was the look exchanged; then Morris went away.

  • Grave, dignified, sombre, a laugh made him frantic to ridiculousness.

    White Fang Jack London
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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