so·​ber | \ ˈsō-bər How to pronounce sober (audio) \
soberer\ ˈsō-​bər-​ər How to pronounce sober (audio) \; soberest\ ˈsō-​b(ə-​)rəst How to pronounce sober (audio) \

Definition of sober

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : not intoxicated He's a half-decent guy when he's sober, but when he's drunk, he's just not accountable for what he does, and he spends a lot of time drunk.— Stephen King
b : abstaining from drinking alcohol or taking intoxicating drugs : refraining from the use of addictive substances (see substance sense 3c) Blossom learns that life isn't always rosy, especially for recovering substance abusers, when she discovers her brother Anthony—clean and sober for two years—wilting when he's tempted by a liquor bottle.TV Guide
c : sparing in the use of food and drink : abstemious He was a large, saturnine man, … comparatively sober in his habits, as people must be who make money out of other people's vices.— Dorothy L. Sayers
2 : marked by sedate or gravely or earnestly thoughtful character or demeanor
4 : marked by temperance, moderation, or seriousness a sober candlelight vigil
5 : subdued in tone or color
6 : showing no excessive or extreme qualities of fancy, emotion, or prejudice


sobered; sobering\ ˈsō-​b(ə-​)riŋ How to pronounce sober (audio) \

Definition of sober (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

: to make sober

intransitive verb

: to become sober usually used with up

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Other Words from sober


soberly \ ˈsō-​bər-​lē How to pronounce sober (audio) \ adverb
soberness noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for sober

Synonyms: Adjective

Antonyms: Adjective

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Choose the Right Synonym for sober


serious, grave, solemn, sedate, staid, sober, earnest mean not light or frivolous. serious implies a concern for what really matters. a serious play about social injustice grave implies both seriousness and dignity in expression or attitude. read the proclamation in a grave voice solemn suggests an impressive gravity utterly free from levity. a sad and solemn occasion sedate implies a composed and decorous seriousness. remained sedate amid the commotion staid suggests a settled, accustomed sedateness and prim self-restraint. a quiet and staid community sober stresses seriousness of purpose and absence of levity or frivolity. a sober look at the state of our schools earnest suggests sincerity or often zealousness of purpose. an earnest reformer

Examples of sober in a Sentence

Adjective I'm driving, so I have to stay sober tonight. He is a sober, hardworking farmer. The story is a sober look at drug abuse. Illness is a sober reminder of our mortality. The article is a sober reflection on the state of our nation. Verb He returned home from the war, saddened and sobered by his experiences.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective At almost exactly the same time, a man standing outside near the northwest corner of the Capitol — middle-aged, professorial-looking with glasses and a face mask dangling below his chin — speaks into his camera for a sober-minded report on the day. Alec Macgillis, ProPublica, "Inside the Capitol Riot: What the Parler Videos Reveal," 17 Jan. 2021 The driver was field sobriety tested and subsequently arrested and then released to a sober person. Brian Lisik, cleveland, "Driver is caught after fleeing police: Avon Police Blotter," 28 Dec. 2020 The sober numbers person can say with virtual certainty that profits will go nowhere near $176 by mid-2022. Shawn Tully, Fortune, "Has the market lost its mind? Probably. But there’s a slim chance that equities are entering a new era of high valuations," 5 June 2020 Lena’s first sight of her son’s face gave her a reason to stay sober, and breastfeeding kept her accountable. Suzanne Hirt, USA Today, "Her husband beat her. Caseworkers ‘pushed her to the edge.’," 17 Dec. 2020 Through his faith and AA, Ron Lindner finally was able to stay sober. James R. Hagerty, WSJ, "Fishing Guide Reeled In Fame and Redemption," 10 Dec. 2020 But local attorneys and civil rights advocates say that, in many parts of the state, color code is plagued by unreasonable fees and false positive tests, and does not help people stay sober or avoid incarceration. Ashley Remkus |, al, "How court-ordered drug testing in Alabama poses impossible choices," 8 Dec. 2020 For those attempting to stay sober, one of the most difficult parts can be reacting to mistakes. Whitney Perry, Glamour, "Miley Cyrus Revealed She’s Now Two Weeks Sober: ‘I Fell Off’," 23 Nov. 2020 Even people established in their sobriety — including a peer counselor for Clifton's treatment court whose job is to help others get and stay sober — are relapsing., "In darkness of pandemic, Wyandotte man's drug addiction got worse — and then deadly," 25 Oct. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Her daughter, Sarah (Katheryn Winnick), a Border Patrol supervisor, collects him and takes him home to sober up. Bill Goodykoontz, Detroit Free Press, "Liam Neeson rescues ‘The Marksman’," 15 Jan. 2021 Moving to sober living was nerve-racking as there are a lot of roommates constantly on top of each other. Adam Carlson,, "Mighty Ducks Star Shaun Weiss Gets New Teeth as He's Now Sober Months After Arrest," 10 Sep. 2020 The death toll, 104,869 as of 10:30 a.m. June 1, is greater than the populations of more than 2,500 counties across the country and stands as sobering evidence of the deadly nature of the novel coronavirus. NBC News, "Seeing the scale: Visualizing the 100,000 American coronavirus deaths," 2 June 2020 In Appanah’s sobering story, a baby boy, Moïse, abandoned by his migrant mother, is adopted by a nurse, grows into a rebellious adolescent, and becomes entangled with a sadistic teen-age gang leader. The New Yorker, "Briefly Noted," 1 June 2020 But after a week of sobering data, Lofven now seems to be striking a darker tone. Niclas Rolander,, "Sweden Girds for Thousands of Deaths Amid Laxer Virus Policy," 8 May 2020 Houston’s first sobering center presents an alternative to that outcome and is seeking help from the community to continue its work. Instead of arresting them, officers bring some individuals to the sobering center. Tracy Maness, Houston Chronicle, "Houston Recovery Center offers different kind of help," 6 Sep. 2019 The scene is sobering to watch, particularly for fans used to seeing Beyoncé put together. Ineye Komonibo,, "Beyoncé’s Best-Ever Acting Performance Is Now On Netflix," 9 Apr. 2020 Sports, our great escape, has become our sobering reality. Christine Brennan, USA TODAY, "Opinion: Shuttering sports shows us how the coronavirus crisis should be handled," 12 Mar. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'sober.' 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 sober


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1c


14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense

History and Etymology for sober


Middle English sobre, from Anglo-French, from Latin sobrius; akin to Latin ebrius drunk

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Time Traveler for sober

Time Traveler

The first known use of sober was in the 14th century

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Statistics for sober

Last Updated

5 Mar 2021

Cite this Entry

“Sober.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 7 Mar. 2021.

Style: MLA
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More Definitions for sober



English Language Learners Definition of sober

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: not drunk
: having or showing a very serious attitude or quality
: plain in color



English Language Learners Definition of sober (Entry 2 of 2)

: to make (someone) serious or thoughtful


so·​ber | \ ˈsō-bər How to pronounce sober (audio) \
soberer; soberest

Kids Definition of sober

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : not drinking too much : temperate
2 : not drunk
3 : having or showing a serious attitude : solemn a sober child a sober voice
4 : having a plain color sober clothes
5 : carefully reasoned or considered : realistic a sober reminder


sobered; sobering

Kids Definition of sober (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to make or become less drunk
2 : to make or become serious or thoughtful The news sobered us.

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More from Merriam-Webster on sober

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for sober

Nglish: Translation of sober for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of sober for Arabic Speakers

Comments on sober

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