[ 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 forms

sul·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 sullenness

British Dictionary definitions for sullenness


/ (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 Forms

sullenly, 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