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 From solitary confinement to overcrowding and violence, atrocious conditions inside prisons have been an issue long before the pandemic. Louise Matsakis, Wired, "Behind Bars, but Still Posting on TikTok," 1 July 2020 New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio pledged Monday to stop using solitary confinement in the city’s jail system, marking a victory for criminal-justice reform advocates who have long argued the practice is inhumane. Deanna Paul, WSJ, "De Blasio Vows to End Solitary Confinement in New York City Jails," 29 June 2020 Layleen Polanco, 27, died last year after experiencing an epileptic seizure in solitary confinement. Cara Kelly, USA TODAY, "17 officers disciplined in death of transgender woman at Rikers Island," 28 June 2020 Layleen Polanco, 27, died of an epileptic seizure while in solitary confinement on June 7 of last year. Justin Carissimo, CBS News, "17 Rikers Island officers face discipline in transgender woman's death," 27 June 2020 Seventeen corrections officers in New York City will face disciplinary action in connection with the death of a transgender woman who died in solitary confinement on Rikers Island. Fox News, "17 Rikers Island guards face disciplinary action in transgender woman’s death," 27 June 2020 Cubilette-Polanco died in June 2019 after being placed in solitary confinement despite the objections of at least one doctor due to her history of seizures. NBC News, "17 corrections officers to be disciplined in trans woman's death at Rikers Island jail," 27 June 2020 At first lockdown was more like solitary confinement than welcome solitude. Vicky Spratt,, "Coronavirus Support Bubbles Force Us To Face Who & What We Truly Miss," 24 June 2020 Once those beds were filled, inmates who raised concerns about coronavirus symptoms were sent to the prison’s only other secluded part: solitary confinement. Dara Lind, ProPublica, "The Prison Was Built to Hold 1,500 Inmates. It Had Over 2,000 Coronavirus Cases.," 18 June 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

4 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Solitary.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Jul. 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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