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 On Tuesday, reporters received advisories at around 12:09 p.m. about a Cuomo appearance in Johnson City at 1:30 p.m. — more than 2 hours down the solitary I-88 highway linking Albany and Binghamton. Washington Post, "Opinion: Cuomo plays cat-and-mouse with New York media," 3 May 2021 Renderings of the memorial, nearly a decade in the planning, depict green curving paths converging on a pond with a solitary sycamore tree rising from its center, a peaceful place to reflect. New York Times, "A Search for Remembrance After the Sandy Hook Massacre," 1 May 2021 Indonesian officials working to determine how a military submarine with 53 crewmembers sunk earlier this month during a training exercise said the vessel may have been hit by an internal solitary wave in the treacherous waters off Bali. Fox News, "Doomed Indonesian sub may have been hit by powerful underwater wave: report," 30 Apr. 2021 For 48 minutes at a time, the command module curved around the far side of the Moon, putting a 2100 mile-wide ball of rock between its solitary pilot and every other human who ever lived. Kiona N. Smith, Forbes, "Apollo 11 Astronaut Michael Collins Has Died At 90," 28 Apr. 2021 After a day’s solitary work, and a few Zoom calls, there are other books to hear. Edward Rothstein, WSJ, "The Special Comfort of Audiobooks During Covid-19 and Trying Times," 28 Apr. 2021 Faye is taking a solitary swim in the ocean, in an unnamed country that resembles Portugal, a country that has been described to her numerous times as afflicted with sexism and warped forms of masculinity. Benjamin Nugent, Harper's Magazine, "The Still Center of Destruction," 27 Apr. 2021 In 1992, a single, solitary sockeye was able to make the trip, according to National Geographic. Alyssa Pone, ABC News, "Snake River is most endangered in the country: Inside the fight to save it," 26 Apr. 2021 In the video, directed by John Avnet, McEntire walks from dry, dusty land and makes a solitary journey to the ocean. Jon Freeman, Rolling Stone, "Reba McEntire Stands Firm in ‘Somehow You Do’ Video," 23 Apr. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun 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, "Auction Opportunity: Gooding Offers 2006 Final-Year Ford GT And We Offer Ford GT Backstory," 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, "Si Woo Kim breaks putter in frustration, forced to putt with wood at the Masters," 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, "New York City is moving to end solitary confinement after a 27-year old died in jail. Her sister says the changes aren't enough.," 12 Mar. 2021 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

6 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Solitary.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 May. 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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Comments on solitary

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