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 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
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Although thousands of prisoners are still subjected to solitary confinement, many states have in recent years restricted the practice, and the United Nations has denounced its use beyond 15 days as cruelty. New York Times, "James Ridgeway, Hard-Hitting Investigative Journalist, Dies at 84," 14 Feb. 2021 Al-Hathloul -- who spent 1,001 days in prison, with time in pretrial detention and solitary confinement -- was accused of crimes such as agitating for change, using the internet to cause disorder and pursuing a foreign agenda. Greg Norman, Fox News, "Saudi women's rights activist freed after being 'forced to kiss, perform sex acts' on prison interrogators," 12 Feb. 2021 For DeRozan and other Spurs, the next 13 nights on the road are apt to feel like solitary confinement, interspersed with the occasional shootaround or game. Jeff Mcdonald, San Antonio Express-News, "Rodeo trip sets up nicely for Spurs, so long as they stay sane," 11 Feb. 2021 Pygmy hippos are solitary in nature and native to West African rainforests in Sierra Leone, Guinea, the Ivory Coast, and Liberia. Marcy De Luna, Chron, "Welcome to Houston, tiny hippo," 25 Nov. 2020 While experts previously believed the creatures were solitary, recorded observations and trapping suggest that the rodents are monogamous and may form family groups. Joel Shannon, USA TODAY, "The African crested rat is rarely seen by humans. Good thing: This 'puffball' has deadly poison in its fur, study finds.," 20 Nov. 2020 Its songs are by turns wounded and angry, solitary and desperate for human contact, haunted by death and desperate to live on and find purpose. Star Tribune, "New music reviews: Public Enemy fights the power without cohesive force; Sufjan Stevens doesn't find happy ending," 15 Oct. 2020 And while QAnon adherents are notoriously solitary, angry, and furtive, PoGo trainers say the game has furnished them with bigger, warmer, more adventurous, more active, and more engaged lives. Virginia Heffernan, Wired, "The Fantasy of Pokémon Go Is More Important Than Ever," 22 Sep. 2020 These insects are either solitary, social or parasitic. Linnea Covington, The Know, "How to create a bee-friendly garden in Denver to support Colorado’s more than 900 native species," 4 Aug. 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

23 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Solitary.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Feb. 2021.

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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 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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