Origin of sour

before 1000; (adj. and noun) Middle English sure, soure, Old English sūr (orig. adj.); cognate with German sauer, Dutch zuur, Old Norse sūrr; (v.) Middle English souren, derivative of the adj.
Related formssour·ish, adjectivesour·ly, adverbsour·ness, nouno·ver·sour, adjectiveo·ver·sour·ly, adverbo·ver·sour·ness, nounun·sour, adjectiveun·sour·ly, adverbun·sour·ness, noun

Synonyms for sour

Antonyms for sour

1. sweet.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for sour

Contemporary Examples of sour

Historical Examples of sour

  • In Berry it is the women that are sour, but the wines are rich.

    The White Company

    Arthur Conan Doyle

  • And on his countenance there was a sour, querulous, resentful expression.

    Night and Morning, Complete

    Edward Bulwer-Lytton

  • It is not blood, but sour buttermilk that flows in their veins.'

    Micah Clarke

    Arthur Conan Doyle

  • The bread was sour and the Italian butter rank and cheesy—often uneatable.

    Samuel Butler: A Sketch

    Henry Festing Jones

  • And what about those fatal Apples, those two sour fruits of their Love?

    The Book of Khalid

    Ameen Rihani

British Dictionary definitions for sour



having or denoting a sharp biting taste like that of lemon juice or vinegarCompare bitter (def. 1)
made acid or bad, as in the case of milk or alcohol, by the action of microorganisms
having a rancid or unwholesome smell
(of a person's temperament) sullen, morose, or disagreeable
(esp of the weather or climate) harsh and unpleasant
disagreeable; distastefula sour experience
(of land, etc) lacking in fertility, esp due to excessive acidity
(of oil, gas, or petrol) containing a relatively large amount of sulphur compounds
go sour or turn sour to become unfavourable or inharmonioushis marriage went sour


something sour
mainly US any of several iced drinks usually made with spirits, lemon juice, and icea whiskey sour
an acid used in laundering and bleaching clothes or in curing animal skins


to make or become sour
Derived Formssourish, adjectivesourly, adverbsourness, noun

Word Origin for sour

Old English sūr; related to Old Norse sūrr, Lithuanian suras salty, Old Slavonic syrŭ wet, raw, surovu green, raw, Sanskrit surā brandy



a variant spelling of Sur
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 sour

Old English sur "sour, tart, acid, fermented," from Proto-Germanic *sura- "sour" (cf. Old Norse surr, Middle Dutch suur, Dutch zuur, Old High German sur, German Sauer), from PIE root *suro- "sour, salty, bitter" (cf. Old Church Slavonic syru, Russian syroi "moist, raw;" Lithuanian suras "salty," suris "cheese").

French sur "sour, tart" (12c.) is a Germanic loan-word. Meaning :having a peevish disposition" is from early 13c. Sense in whisky sour (1885) is "with lemon added" (1862). Sour cream is attested from 1855.


c.1300, from sour (adj.). Cf. Old High German suren, German säuern. Related: Soured; souring.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper