\ˈnwär \

Definition of noir 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1 : crime fiction featuring hard-boiled cynical characters and bleak sleazy settings an example of classic noir

2 : film noir a comedy dressed in the trappings of an edgy noir



Definition of noir (Entry 2 of 2)

: having a bleak and darkly cynical quality of the kind associated with hard-boiled crime fiction and film noir a noir thriller In this boldly styled first novel, Komarnicki follows a 30-year-old homeless man on a noir odyssey of death and survival through the streets of New Orleans and Hong Kong.— Sybil S. Steinberg The plot of this violent fairy tale is as noir and nasty as the characters.— Marilyn Stasio

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Other Words from noir


noirish \ ˈnwär-​ish \ adjective

Examples of noir in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Or, for Nordic noir diehards looking for something a little different, try Fallet, a dry Swedish comedy that subtly satirizes the genre. Noel Murray, The Verge, "This weekend, stream some ‘Nordic noir’ on Netflix, starting with Deadwind," 9 Nov. 2018 More likely, it was probably written as an excuse to do a noir sequence. Elizabeth Logan, Glamour, "Every Single Episode of Gossip Girl, Ranked," 19 Sep. 2018 The vibrant noir cinematic style matches the song's passionate nature as the pair face off before finding closure. Tamar Herman, Billboard, "DAY6 Drop 'Shoot Me' Music Video," 26 June 2018 Despite an ambitious premise and style, the neo-noir sci-fi indie is a fractured narrative that can’t achieve what its lofty ideas intend. Kimber Myers,, "Review: Pretentious sci-fi noir '7 Splinters in Time' overreaches," 12 July 2018 The series explores this question and others in Azzarello's naturalistic, no-BS, noir style that shines through in his other works such as Joker and Spaceman. Mark Peters, Chicago Reader, "A comics legend teams up with Three Floyds to brew some beer-fueled superhero mayhem," 17 Apr. 2018 The very expansiveness of its concerns, which incorporate the mystical-religious, set it so far apart from the customary scandi-noir that the genre feels begun anew. Josephine Livingstone, The New Republic, "Sacred Games Reinvents the Police Procedural," 12 July 2018 The story is brought alive by Mr French’s Shanghai-noir telling, which echoes Dashiell Hammett and James Ellroy: Illicit hooch becomes a lethal blend…and drunks stagger and collapse on the Avenue Haig. The Economist, "A gripping tale of Sodom sliding towards its bloody end," 12 July 2018 The Question was a ruthless, faceless detective who dressed like a noir hero and brutalized criminals. David Sims, The Atlantic, "Steve Ditko’s Ordinary People," 10 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

So Dark the Night’ [from 1946, screening June 9] is noir character actor Steven Geray’s only starring role. Loren King,, "The man who speaks film noir is on a mission," 31 May 2018 The Hollywood blacklist is an ongoing theme of Muller’s backstories; not surprising, since the postwar era was noir’s heyday and its subject matter is by definition dark and often nihilistic. Loren King,, "The man who speaks film noir is on a mission," 31 May 2018 This narrative style fits the game’s 1950s detective noir film aesthetic. Michael Moore, The Verge, "A Case of Distrust is a minimalist noir story," 18 Mar. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'noir.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of noir


1977, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1958, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for noir


short for film noir

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Statistics for noir

Last Updated

13 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for noir

The first known use of noir was in 1958

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Comments on noir

What made you want to look up noir? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


something that serves to warn or remind

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