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

Other Words from solitary


solitarily \ ˌsä-​lə-​ˈter-​ə-​lē How to pronounce solitary (audio) \ adverb
solitariness \ ˈsä-​lə-​ˌter-​ē-​nəs How to pronounce solitary (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 See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective In addition to Harvey and Colvin, the sheriff's office said two other inmates were moved into solitary confinement for their roles in the assault. Celeste Noraian And Alta Spells, CNN, 18 June 2022 The morning ended with Harvey and Colvin — along with two unnamed inmates authorities have accused of taking part in the attack — being placed in solitary confinement, according to the sheriff’s office. María Luisa Paúl, Washington Post, 17 June 2022 The inmate was ultimately sent to a special housing unit, commonly known as solitary confinement, presumably to protect Maxwell, according to the lawyers. Rich Schapiro, NBC News, 17 June 2022 While in solitary confinement in a nine-by-seven-foot cell, she was deprived of sleep by guards who checked on her every 15 minutes by shining a flashlight in her eyes. Andrea Marks, Rolling Stone, 16 June 2022 Herman Wallace spent 41 years in solitary confinement. Abigail Glasgow, Vogue, 10 June 2022 Many children in Rutherford County were placed in solitary confinement under conditions a federal judge called inhumane. Ken Armstrong, ProPublica, 8 June 2022 Each woman is put into solitary confinement upon arrival, ostensibly for a few days, but some are left there for up to two months. Lynzy Billing, ELLE, 7 June 2022 The agency said he was housed in disciplinary segregation – not solitary confinement – because of the fights he was involved in. Dave Collins, The Christian Science Monitor, 6 June 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Witnesses at the hearing told the committee that any time in solitary can be life-altering. NBC News, 28 Apr. 2022 Witnesses at the hearing told the committee that any time in solitary can be life-altering. Annie Waldman, ProPublica, 28 Apr. 2022 How has your thinking about reading as a solitary or a social act evolved during this time? Eve Bowen, The New York Review of Books, 5 Mar. 2022 In retaliation, Cohen says he was sent back to prison and spent 16 days in solitary until a federal judge intervened. Dan Berman, CNN, 12 Feb. 2022 Machen’s father was an impecunious clergyman, his mother an invalid, and their son a solitary but not lonely child. Michael Dirda, The New York Review of Books, 28 May 2020 As an interesting side note, this little pirate ship included the solitary (and sometimes cantankerous) engineer, Steve Anderson, who produced Ford police packages, under the glamorous banner DSO, for Dealer Special Order. Mark Ewing, Forbes, 15 Apr. 2021 While one solitary dropped shot left him just three shots shy of Justin Rose in the lead, the emotions were too much for Kim. Ben Morse, CNN, 9 Apr. 2021 Of those being held in the city's custody as of January, statistics show that 595 people had been held in solitary between 1 and 30 days, 185 people had been held for between 30 and 60 days and 44 people had been held for more than 120 days. Cassidy Mcdonald, CBS News, 12 Mar. 2021 See More

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.

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

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

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Dictionary Entries Near solitary



solitary ant

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Last Updated

23 Jun 2022

Cite this Entry

“Solitary.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 Jun. 2022.

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More Definitions for solitary


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

More from Merriam-Webster on solitary

Nglish: Translation of solitary for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of solitary for Arabic Speakers


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