a brown pigment obtained from the inklike secretion of various cuttlefish and used with brush or pen in drawing.
a drawing made with this pigment.
a dark brown.
Photography. a print or photograph made in this color.
any of several cuttlefish of the genus Sepia, producing a dark fluid used naturally for defense and, by humans, in ink.


of a brown, grayish brown, or olive brown similar to that of sepia ink.

Origin of sepia

1560–70; < Latin sēpia cuttlefish, its secretion < Greek sēpía; akin to sêpsis sepsis
Related formsse·pi·a·like, adjectivese·pic [see-pik, sep-ik] /ˈsi pɪk, ˈsɛp ɪk/, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for sepia

Contemporary Examples of sepia

Historical Examples of sepia

  • This sulphide will give tones which are sepia brown with most papers.

  • The natural was made from a black earth, or from the secretion of the cuttle-fish, sepia.

  • All derived from cuttle-fish varieties of sepia used for baits.

    The Sailor's Word-Book

    William Henry Smyth

  • This food is chiefly the Squid or Sepia octopus, known also by the name of the cuttle-fish.

    Old Jack

    W.H.G. Kingston

  • That a sepia photograph of the Coliseum, framed, is a work of art.

    The American Credo

    George Jean Nathan

British Dictionary definitions for sepia



a dark reddish-brown pigment obtained from the inky secretion of the cuttlefish
any cuttlefish of the genus Sepia
a brownish tone imparted to a photograph, esp an early one such as a calotype. It can be produced by first bleaching a print (after fixing) and then immersing it for a short time in a solution of sodium sulphide or of alkaline thiourea
a brownish-grey to dark yellowish-brown colour
a drawing or photograph in sepia


of the colour sepia or done in sepiaa sepia print

Word Origin for sepia

C16: from Latin: a cuttlefish, from Greek; related to Greek sēpein to make rotten
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 sepia

"rich brown pigment," 1821, from Italian seppia "cuttlefish" (borrowed with that meaning in English by 1560s), from Latin sepia "cuttlefish," from Greek sepia "cuttlefish," related to sepein "to make rotten" (cf. sepsis). The color was that of brown paint or ink prepared from the fluid secretions of the cuttlefish. Meaning "a sepia drawing" is recorded from 1863.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper