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 < ?
Related formssul·len·ly, adverbsul·len·ness, nounun·sul·len, adjectiveun·sul·len·ly, adverb

Synonyms for sullen

1. See cross. 1, 2. See glum. 2. sulky, moody, sour, bad-tempered. 4. cheerless, clouded, overcast, somber, mournful, dark. 5. slow, stagnant.

Antonyms for sullen

1, 2. cheerful. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for sullenly

Contemporary Examples of sullenly

  • And defeated Germany sullenly nursed her wounds, its people casting about for someone to blame.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Wounds of World War I Have Yet to Heal

    Michael F. Bishop

    June 28, 2014

  • We can stand silently and sullenly beside them since, ideologically speaking, there is nowhere else to go.

    The Daily Beast logo
    The Betrayed Wives Club

    Lee Siegel

    February 6, 2010

Historical Examples of sullenly

British Dictionary definitions for sullenly



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 sullenly



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