sol·​i·​tary | \ˈsä-lə-ˌter-ē \

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 \ adverb
solitariness \ ˈsä-​lə-​ˌter-​ē-​nəs \ noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for solitary

Synonyms: Adjective

alone, lone, lonely, lonesome, single, solo, unaccompanied

Synonyms: Noun

anchorite, eremite, hermit, isolate, recluse

Antonyms: Adjective


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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


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.


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

Beneath all of them was a solitary, helpless photographer, swept off his feet by Croatia’s celebrations. Rory Smith, New York Times, "Croatia Digs Deeper, Burying England’s World Cup Dreams," 12 July 2018 If musical humor was rewarded with goals or bonus points, England would have won the World Cup far more often than its solitary triumph in 1966. Martin Rogers, USA TODAY, "What are those songs fans are singing at the World Cup?," 10 July 2018 Not at all the solitary ritual of eating ice cream straight from the carton in front of the television. Jeanmarie Brownson,, "When Eton mess gives you extra yolks, whip them up into ice cream," 10 July 2018 And, Cruz’ rowhouse is still standing, an odd, solitary structure surrounded by new construction. Jan Hefler,, "Nine new houses sit empty in Mount Holly. Here's why," 2 July 2018 But under all that, there’s a recurring sense of something looming — a dark cloud, an omen, a bad dream — that is driving him to retreat to the solitary pleasures of making songs and listening to music. John Adamian,, "Seven Concerts You Might Want To See (And Why)," 9 June 2018 The birds are returned to their nest and the solitary cluster resumes its routine of early morning feedings. Marialuisa Rincon, Houston Chronicle, "Officials at W.G. Jones State Forest look toward future," 8 June 2018 Last year’s two-point win against Texas A&M encapsulated the team concept in what is viewed as a solitary sport. Edgar Thompson,, "UF track and field coach Mike Holloway has Gator men, women on cusp of NCAA titles," 7 June 2018 RF Shannon’s Trickster Blues is the sound of a shimmering desert mirage, a solitary, widescreen drive in search of an epic spaghetti western. Staff, The Christian Science Monitor, "Top Picks: Jess Williamson's 'Cosmic Wink,' 'Black Panther' on DVD and Blu-ray, and more," 1 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

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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Statistics for solitary

Last Updated

8 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for solitary

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

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More Definitions for solitary



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 \

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 \

Medical Definition of solitary 

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

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Comments on solitary

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


to clear from alleged fault or guilt

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