[ suhl-uhn ]
/ ˈsʌl ən /


showing irritation or ill humor by a gloomy silence or reserve.
persistently and silently ill-humored; morose.
indicative of gloomy ill humor.
gloomy or dismal, as weather or a sound.
sluggish, as a stream.
Obsolete. malignant, as planets or influences.

Origin of sullen

1565–75; earlier solein, Middle English < ?
1 See cross.
1, 2 See glum.
2 sulky, moody, sour, bad-tempered.
4 cheerless, clouded, overcast, somber, mournful, dark.
5 slow, stagnant.
Related formssul·len·ly, adverbsul·len·ness, nounun·sul·len, adjectiveun·sul·len·ly, adverb Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for sullen

British Dictionary definitions for sullen


/ (ˈsʌlən) /


unwilling to talk or be sociable; sulky; morose
sombre; gloomya sullen day
literary sluggish; slowa sullen stream
obsolete threatening


(plural) archaic a sullen mood
Derived Formssullenly, adverbsullenness, noun

Word Origin for sullen

C16: perhaps from Anglo-French solain (unattested), ultimately related to Latin sōlus alone
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 sullen



1570s, alteration of Middle English soleyn "unique, singular," from Anglo-French *solein, formed on the pattern of Old French soltain, from Old French soul "single" (see sole (n.2)). The sense shift in Middle English from "solitary" to "morose" occurred late 14c.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper