sol·​i·​tary | \ ˈsä-lə-ˌter-ē How to pronounce solitary (audio) \

Definition of solitary

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : being, living, or going alone or without companions
b : saddened by isolation
2 : unfrequented, desolate a solitary seashore
3a : taken, passed, or performed without companions a solitary ramble
b : keeping a prisoner apart from others solitary confinement
4 : being at once single and isolated a solitary example
5a : occurring singly and not as part of a group or cluster flowers terminal and solitary
b : not gregarious, colonial, social, or compound solitary bees


plural solitaries

Definition of solitary (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : one who lives or seeks to live a solitary life : recluse
2 : solitary confinement in prison put him in solitary

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Other Words from solitary


solitarily \ ˌsä-​lə-​ˈter-​ə-​lē How to pronounce solitarily (audio) \ adverb
solitariness \ ˈsä-​lə-​ˌter-​ē-​nəs How to pronounce solitariness (audio) \ noun

Synonyms for solitary

Synonyms: Adjective

Synonyms: Noun

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Choose the Right Synonym for solitary


alone, solitary, lonely, lonesome, lone, forlorn, desolate mean isolated from others. alone stresses the objective fact of being by oneself with slighter notion of emotional involvement than most of the remaining terms. everyone needs to be alone sometimes solitary may indicate isolation as a chosen course glorying in the calm of her solitary life but more often it suggests sadness and a sense of loss. left solitary by the death of his wife lonely adds to solitary a suggestion of longing for companionship. felt lonely and forsaken lonesome heightens the suggestion of sadness and poignancy. an only child often leads a lonesome life lone may replace lonely or lonesome but typically is as objective as alone. a lone robin pecking at the lawn forlorn stresses dejection, woe, and listlessness at separation from one held dear. a forlorn lost child desolate implies inconsolable grief at loss or bereavement. desolate after her brother's death

Examples of solitary in a Sentence

Adjective He took a solitary walk on the beach. A solitary house stood on top of the cliff. Most cats are solitary creatures. He's a very solitary man. Noun The prisoner was kept in solitary. weary of European civilization, the painter Paul Gauguin famously abandoned France to become a solitary in the South Seas
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Among other things, the TTI in general has been accused of using deceptive marketing practices to bait desperate parents, and deploying inhumane methods of punishment, including long periods of solitary confinement. Rosemary Donahue, Allure, "Paris Hilton Won’t Give Up Until She’s Shut Down the Entire Troubled Teen Industry," 13 Oct. 2020 He was held for five-and-a-half years, enduring brutal treatment and torture, and even spending two years in solitary confinement. Caroline Linton, CBS News, "John McCain's mother, Roberta McCain, dies at 108," 13 Oct. 2020 During the pandemic, the number of individuals in solitary or lockdown rose from 60,000 to 300,000 in about one month. Justine Van Der Leun, The New York Review of Books, "Confinement and Contagion," 10 Sep. 2020 During his 44 years in solitary, Woodfox was allowed outside only one hour of each day., "‘Solitary Garden’ at Stowe Center in Hartford evokes solitary confinement cell," 9 Aug. 2020 Punishments vary: nutraloaf is one of them; more time in solitary is another. Krista Stevens, Longreads, "1600 Days in Solitary Confinement, and Counting," 30 June 2020 Unlike honey bees, many native species are solitary and nest in the ground, so another stewardship solution might be providing adequate nesting habitat for them, like sandy ground, dead wood, and native flowers. Jennifer Clare Ball, Wired, "Why Some Ecologists Worry About Rooftop Honey Bee Programs," 2 Oct. 2020 Yiannousakis is in solitary confinement at Korydallos after stints in prisons across Greece. Alexander Clapp, The New Republic, "The Vampire Ship," 28 Sep. 2020 Along with the mural, the group published a 10-point pledge for a more equitable future that asks for shelter, a redistribution of police funds and the end of solitary confinement. Ryan Kost,, "What will happen to the plywood murals of 2020?," 27 Sep. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Highsmith was also a solitary who spent most of her life in Switzerland among cats. Sarah Fay, Longreads, "On Solitude (and Isolation and Loneliness [and Brackets])," 17 Mar. 2020 To draft an answer, Johnson goes back to his famous solitaries in an attempt to identify a common denominator. Kathryn Hughes, New York Times, "The Case for Staying Single," 10 Mar. 2020 SOLITARY: INSIDE RED ONION STATE PRISON (2017) 10 p.m. on HBO. Kathryn Shattuck, New York Times, "What’s on TV Monday: ‘Finding Dory’ and ‘Gender Revolution: A Journey With Katie Couric’," 6 Feb. 2017

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


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


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for solitary


Middle English, solitarie, from Anglo-French, from Latin solitarius, from solitas aloneness, from solus alone

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Time Traveler for solitary

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for solitary

Last Updated

20 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Solitary.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Oct. 2020.

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More Definitions for solitary


How to pronounce solitary (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of solitary

: without anyone or anything else : not involving or including anyone or anything else
: done by a person who is alone
: separate from other people or things


sol·​i·​tary | \ ˈsä-lə-ˌter-ē How to pronounce solitary (audio) \

Kids Definition of solitary

1 : all alone : without anyone or anything else a solitary traveler
2 : seldom visited : lonely a solitary seashore
3 : growing or living alone : not one of a group or cluster solitary insects


sol·​i·​tary | \ ˈsäl-ə-ˌter-ē How to pronounce solitary (audio) \

Medical Definition of solitary

: occurring singly and not as part of a group a solitary lesion

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