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sol·​i·​tary ˈsä-lə-ˌter-ē How to pronounce solitary (audio)
: being, living, or going alone or without companions
: saddened by isolation
: unfrequented, desolate
a solitary seashore
: taken, passed, or performed without companions
a solitary ramble
: keeping a prisoner apart from others
solitary confinement
: being at once single and isolated
a solitary example
: occurring singly and not as part of a group or cluster
flowers terminal and solitary
: not gregarious, colonial, social, or compound
solitary bees
solitarily adverb
solitariness noun


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plural solitaries
: one who lives or seeks to live a solitary life : recluse
: solitary confinement in prison
put him in solitary
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
On-screen, she’s always played the solitary woman under pressure. Jordan Kisner, The Atlantic, 18 Feb. 2024 After all, that’s the reason workers on a hybrid pattern are spending their time and money to head into the office rather than work in solitary at home. Byorianna Rosa Royle, Fortune Europe, 7 Feb. 2024 Red pandas are most active at dusk and dawn, and are tree-dwelling and solitary. Maggie Menderski, The Courier-Journal, 7 Feb. 2024 When the staff finally complied, he and several others were placed in solitary after testing positive for the coronavirus. Andrea Castillo, Los Angeles Times, 6 Feb. 2024 Brilliant and solitary, Dr. Kurzweil had always been an elusive figure, even in the years when Chowdhury had known him. Elliot Ackerman, WIRED, 6 Feb. 2024 Up until recently, scientists also suggested that this primate ancestor was a primitive and solitary mammal that lived in the shadow of the dinosaurs. Margherita Bassi, Discover Magazine, 30 Jan. 2024 My years as a solopreneur, or a solitary tree, grew deep roots and expertise in all areas of business. Yec, Forbes, 13 Feb. 2024 About 700 solitary placements lasted at least 90 days, and 42 lasted more than a year, according to the report. Andrea Castillo, Los Angeles Times, 6 Feb. 2024
The changes allow inmates in solitary to participate in additional rehabilitative programming and shave time off their isolation by earning credits. Lindsey Holden, Sacramento Bee, 31 Jan. 2024 The Rules of Seclusion In 2016, a suit in Rutherford County challenged the use of solitary confinement in the juvenile detention center after a child was kept in solitary for days for disrupting class. Paige Pfleger, ProPublica, 16 Nov. 2023 The state promised the kids wouldn’t be held in solitary. María Luisa Paúl, Washington Post, 11 Sep. 2023 Not every state keeps its death-row population in solitary. Keri Blakinger, New York Times, 31 Aug. 2023 Four pairs of slippers had appeared outside a cell two down from me, hinting at four inmates who most likely had just come out of solitary to be kept in a large cell together. Hossein Derakhshan, WIRED, 21 July 2023 One man was taken to solitary to pressure him to end his hunger strike. María Inés Taracena, The New Republic, 12 Apr. 2023 Guilt, confession, penitence — this legacy vocabulary of criminal justice calls back to a time when confinement was about reform and salvation, before modern punishment turned exclusively on physical torture, the amateur savagery of shower-rape jokes, random beat-downs, the cruelty of solitary. New York Times, 7 June 2022 Their solitary and, as Sonya sees it, sublime, life involves many mini-adventures and nesting at home in front of the TV. Mary Cadden, USA TODAY, 8 Dec. 2021 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'solitary.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History



Middle English, solitarie, from Anglo-French, from Latin solitarius, from solitas aloneness, from solus alone

First Known Use


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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

Dictionary Entries Near solitary

Cite this Entry

“Solitary.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 adjective
sol·​i·​tary ˈsäl-ə-ˌter-ē How to pronounce solitary (audio)
: all alone
a solitary traveler
: seldom visited : lonely
: being the only one : sole
solitary example
: growing or living alone : not forming part of a group or cluster
flowers at the end of the stalk and solitary
the solitary wasps


2 of 2 noun
plural solitaries
: one who lives or seeks to live a solitary life : recluse, hermit

Medical Definition


sol·​i·​tary ˈsäl-ə-ˌter-ē How to pronounce solitary (audio)
: occurring singly and not as part of a group
a solitary lesion

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