\ 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

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 Nearly everyone acknowledges Sjöwall and Wahlöö as the origin point for Nordic noir, a regional genre that has produced international stars like Henning Mankell, Stieg Larsson, and Jo Nesbø. Alice Bolin, Longreads, "The Daughter as Detective," 26 June 2018 Instead, Day of the Soldado is helmed by Stefano Sollima (the director of Italian noir like 2015’s Suburra), who approaches it like a straightforward gangster movie. David Sims, The Atlantic, "Sicario: Day of the Soldado," 2 July 2018 In that sense, the vaguely rosy Los Angeles of the film, where even the noir shadows are cast by a smiling cartoon sun, becomes a weird nostalgia trip for the filmmakers — a city that almost was. Todd Vanderwerff, Vox, "Chinatown, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and L.A. Confidential explore the shady deals that built the sprawling megalopolis.," 22 June 2018 But most readers will remember her for Eileen, the 2015 noir thriller about a troubled secretary at a boys’ prison who spends her nights caring for her alcoholic father, which was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize and won a PEN/Hemingway Award. Clare Mchugh, Time, "Why Ottessa Moshfegh Is One of the Best Novelists of the Summer," 12 July 2018 Sign up for our daily newsletter and never miss our latest and greatest stories Business Author Joshuah Bearman discusses his two part techno-noir series on the rise and fall of the online drug bazaar Silk Road. Issie Lapowsky, WIRED, "Tech Companies Deflect Blame for Opioid Crisis Ahead of FDA Summit," 27 June 2018 Consider dishes like boudin noir tart ($7), rabbit salad ($10), escargot in puff pastry ($16), duck liver terrine ($7), egg baked in red wine with mushrooms ($6) and steak au poivre ($8). Georgann Yara, azcentral, "French restaurants in Phoenix to celebrate Bastille Day," 9 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

18 Sep 2018

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Time Traveler for noir

The first known use of noir was in 1958

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alleviating pain or harshness

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