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See more synonyms for somber on Thesaurus.com
  1. gloomily dark; shadowy; dimly lighted: a somber passageway.
  2. dark and dull, as color, or as things in respect to color: a somber dress.
  3. gloomy, depressing, or dismal: a somber mood.
  4. extremely serious; grave: a somber expression on his face.
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Also especially British, som·bre.

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 formssom·ber·ly, adverbsom·ber·ness, nounun·som·ber, adjectiveun·som·ber·ly, adverbun·som·ber·ness, noun


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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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Examples from the Web for somber

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • He caught them, caught her somber eyes too, and was amused and rather stimulated.


    Mary Roberts Rinehart

  • I had them lighted, thinking that they would brighten up the somber room.

    The Flood

    Emile Zola

  • There was a somber light in his eyes, and his lips were whitening.

    A Son of Hagar

    Sir Hall Caine

  • Texas, as somber as a spade flush, draws Boggs into a corner.

    Faro Nell and Her Friends

    Alfred Henry Lewis

  • Then slowly a somber twilight began to fall, and Axelson rose.

Word Origin and History for somber


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.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper