sal·​low | \ ˈsa-(ˌ)lō How to pronounce sallow (audio) \

Definition of sallow

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: any of several Old World broad-leaved willows (such as Salix caprea) including important sources of charcoal and tanbark



Definition of sallow (Entry 2 of 2)

: of a grayish greenish yellow color

Other Words from sallow


sallowish \ ˈsa-​lə-​wish How to pronounce sallow (audio) \ adjective
sallowness \ ˈsa-​lō-​nəs How to pronounce sallow (audio) , -​lə-​ \ noun

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There is no hint of sickliness in the etymology of sallow. The word appears in Old English as salu or salo, and could mean "dusky" or "dark" or "grayish greenish yellow." Salu (or salo) is akin to Old English sōl ("dark, dirty"), Old High German salo ("murky, dirty gray"), Old Norse sölr ("dirty"), and even Sanskrit sāra or sāla, which carries the basic meaning of "dirty gray." Sallow, however, has for much of its history been used specifically to describe the skin or complexion of one who is unwell.

Examples of sallow in a Sentence

Adjective he was still a bit sallow after a week spent in bed with the flu
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Cancer transformed Wu from a baby-faced boy to a sallow wraith immobilized on a gurney. Washington Post, 31 Dec. 2019 Her cheeks were sunken, complexion sallow, her tiny frame emaciated and frail. Washington Post, 12 Dec. 2019 Purple neutralizes sallow, yellow tones, while orange and red balance out blue and purple dark circles. Rachel Nussbaum, Glamour, 16 Oct. 2018 Chiffchaffs and willow warblers sing in the sallow and alder, while every leaf seems to hold a butterfly or dragonfly or hoverfly. The Economist, 5 July 2018 With hints of greens and blues beneath her sallow flesh, the girl looks sickly. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 4 July 2018 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective There are also a couple shots of an etherial, sallow-skinned man who appears to be operating on Sauron’s behalf — though, again, Tolkien fans know that Sauron is capable of altering his appearance. Adam B. Vary, Variety, 22 July 2022 Her cherry-colored cheeks impart a glow that is far from the dull, sallow complexions of the average person that is experiencing a hangover. Sara Miranda, Allure, 11 Jan. 2022 Caffeine, Brazilian ginseng, horse chestnut and light-reflecting particles instantly wake up tired, sallow skin and make for a brighter, smoother under-eye region. Joseph Deacetis, Forbes, 29 Dec. 2021 My face had become gaunt and haggard, my sallow skin formed shadows etched beneath my eyes that no amount of makeup could disguise. Emily Listfield, Allure, 8 May 2021 In Shadow and Bone, Alina is depicted as plain (if not homely), with mousy brown hair and pale, sallow skin. Lauren Puckett, Harper's BAZAAR, 30 Apr. 2021 Her father should know, having spent decades hunched over an oak desk in a shipping company’s lightless front room along with a dozen other sallow men. The Editors, Curbed, 26 Apr. 2021 Amid this oppressive gloom, Stone’s sallow, hangdog visage suggests someone wasting away before our very eyes. Bilge Ebiri, Vulture, 12 Mar. 2021 The elusive purple emperor butterfly has made its home in the acres of sallow trees -- a kind of willow -- that flourish on the estate. Hazel Pfeifer, CNN, 1 Oct. 2020 See More

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

First Known Use of sallow


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined above


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for sallow


Middle English, from Old English sealh; akin to Old High German salha sallow, Latin salix willow


Middle English salowe, from Old English salu; akin to Old High German salo murky, Russian solovyĭ yellowish gray

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The first known use of sallow was before the 12th century

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sallow thorn

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Cite this Entry

“Sallow.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for sallow


sal·​low | \ ˈsa-lō How to pronounce sallow (audio) \

Kids Definition of sallow

: slightly yellow in a way that does not look healthy His hair was short and wild …, his face starved and sallow with grief.— Louise Erdrich, The Birchbark House


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