sluggish in temperament; gloomy; taciturn.
suffering from lead poisoning, as a person.
due to absorption of lead, as bodily disorders.

Origin of saturnine

1400–50; late Middle English < Medieval Latin sāturnīnus (see Saturn, -ine1)
Related formssat·ur·nine·ly, adverbsat·ur·nine·ness, sat·ur·nin·i·ty [sat-er-nin-i-tee] /ˌsæt ərˈnɪn ɪ ti/, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for saturnine

Historical Examples of saturnine

  • The voice of the older man came with a sinister force and saturnine.

    Within the Law

    Marvin Dana

  • His temper was of the saturnine complexion, and without the least taint of moroseness.

    Joseph Andrews Vol. 1

    Henry Fielding

  • The saturnine Hahn stood at my door with a weapon upon me while I ate.

  • All the while the little Cuban talked swiftly and with a saturnine enthusiasm.


    Joseph Conrad and F.M. Hueffer

  • The witticisms convulsed Paul's neighbours and left him saturnine.

    Despair's Last Journey

    David Christie Murray

British Dictionary definitions for saturnine



having a gloomy temperament; taciturn
  1. of or relating to lead
  2. having or symptomatic of lead poisoning
Derived Formssaturninely, adverbsaturninity (ˌsætəˈnɪnɪtɪ), noun

Word Origin for saturnine

C15: from French saturnin, from Medieval Latin sāturnīnus (unattested), from Latin Sāturnus Saturn, with reference to the gloomy influence attributed to the planet Saturn
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

Word Origin and History for saturnine

"gloomy, morose, sluggish, grave," mid-15c., literally "born under the influence of the planet Saturn," from Middle English Saturne (see Saturn) + -ine (1). Medieval physiology believed these characteristics to be caused by the astrological influence of the planet Saturn, which was the most remote from the Sun (in the limited knowledge of the times) and thus coldest and slowest in its revolution.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

saturnine in Medicine




Melancholy or sullen.
Produced by absorption of lead.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.