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 Just before the process was about to begin, the Christian leader was whisked away by a guard and into the dearth of solitary confinement. Fox News, "What it is like to be a Christian activist jailed with ISIS operatives in Sudan," 18 May 2020 There, Rajabian spent almost three months in solitary confinement, blindfolded. Justin Rohrlich, Quartz, "For a dissident musician in Iran, Covid-19 quarantine is just another day," 8 May 2020 That's why solitary confinement is a form of torture. Natasha Preskey,, "This Is Why You Find Zoom Calls So Tiring," 3 May 2020 Meanwhile, Mahmoud al-Jaziri, a reporter imprisoned in Bahrain, was moved to solitary confinement in April 8 after telling media about the coronavirus fears of fellow inmates. Time Staff, Time, "These Are the 10 'Most Urgent' Cases of Threats to Press Freedom in the Age of Coronavirus," 1 May 2020 So far, McFarland has spent 22 months in jail, and nine months in the SHU (Special Housing Unit, or solitary confinement). Lindsay Kimble,, "Fyre Festival's Billy McFarland Is Asking for Early Prison Release Over COVID-19 Fears," 16 Apr. 2020 Weinstein also tested positive for coronavirus, causing him to be placed in solitary confinement upon his arrival at Wende Correctional Facility in western New York. Christian Holub,, "Harvey Weinstein gets additional sexual assault charge in L.A.," 10 Apr. 2020 Outdoor recreation is a solitary recreational exercise. Caitlin O'kane, CBS News, "What does shelter-in-place mean?," 2 Apr. 2020 Residents can leave their homes for solitary exercise or to obtain essential services or items, including trips to the grocery stores. Jorge L. Ortiz, USA TODAY, "Coronavirus in the US: How all 50 states are responding to this public health emergency," 31 Mar. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun 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 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Solitary.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Jun. 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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