som·​ber | \ˈsäm-bər \
variants: or sombre

Definition of somber 

1 : so shaded as to be dark and gloomy

2a : of a serious mien : grave somber dignitaries

b : of a dismal or depressing character : melancholy

c : conveying gloomy suggestions or ideas

3 : of a dull or heavy cast or shade : dark colored

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Other Words from somber

somberly adverb
somberness noun

Examples of somber in a Sentence

Looking out at his audience, a somber mass of monks, Gregory gave Mary a new identity that would shape her image for fourteen hundred years. — Jonathan Darman, Newsweek, 29 May 2006 This year marks a somber anniversary—it was 150 years ago that humans wiped out the last survivors of this species. A relative of the razorbills and puffins, and about the size of a small goose, the great auk was black-bodied with a white underbelly, and walked erect, like a penguin. — Bill Montevecchi, Natural History, August 1994 The purple darkness was filled with men who lectured and jabbered. Sometimes he could see them gesticulating against the blue and somber sky. — Stephen Crane, The Red Badge of Courage, 1895 Her death put us in a somber mood. The movie is a somber portrait of life on the streets. He wore a somber suit.
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Recent Examples on the Web

On a more somber note, a man who committed two murders while in the grips of withdrawal has one request for his last meal: a slice of his mother’s apple pie. Sarah Bahr, Indianapolis Star, "Steve Martin musical, Edgar Allen Poe highlight new Phoenix Theatre season," 9 July 2018 Much of the work for the next several years is somber, under a shadow. New York Times, "Growing, Faltering, Changing, Growing: Lessons From Kay WalkingStick," 7 June 2018 On a more somber note, perhaps, Morgan’s son and other bank executives later claimed that Untermyer’s inquisition led to his father’s death just a few months later in March 1913. Daniel Fernandez, Smithsonian, "Before Zuckerberg, These Six Corporate Titans Testified Before Congress," 10 Apr. 2018 The Shorewood march took on a somber tone — there were no chants or slogans shouted over a bullhorn — as demonstrators sought to convey the seriousness of their concerns. Rick Barrett, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Immigrant-rights marchers rally in Wisconsin and the nation," 30 June 2018 God of War is an unexpected departure for the series, one that hopes to marry its energetic violence and spectacle with a more somber reflection on family. Julie Muncy, WIRED, "God of War Is a Messy, Beguiling Take on Fantasy Violence and Toxic Masculinity," 25 Apr. 2018 The Temple—another annual fixture of the gathering—is lit aflame the following evening in a more somber ceremony. Sam Spengler, Smithsonian, "How One Museum Curator Is Bringing Burning Man Out of the Desert," 30 Mar. 2018 President Donald Trump's decision to slap tariffs on imported steel and aluminum triggered cheers at Kentucky aluminum and steel mills — and a far more somber reaction from bourbon distillers and manufacturing businesses. Grace Schneider, The Courier-Journal, "Trump's tariffs: Kentucky businesses fear they're mostly on the losing end," 11 Mar. 2018 Yet this work, inspired by Janes hearing that 4 a.m. is the time when people near death often slip away, gives rein to more somber thoughts. Lawrence Toppman, charlotteobserver, "At the Ballet: A long-sought strength achieved – and more innovation," 1 Feb. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'somber.' 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 somber

1760, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for somber

French sombre

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Statistics for somber

Last Updated

10 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for somber

The first known use of somber was in 1760

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More Definitions for somber



English Language Learners Definition of somber

: very sad and serious

: having a dull or dark color


variants: or sombre \ ˈsäm-​bər \

Kids Definition of somber

1 : very sad or serious a somber mood somber news

2 : being dark and gloomy : dull somber colors

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Comments on somber

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a private place of worship

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