som·​ber | \ ˈsäm-bər How to pronounce somber (audio) \
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

Keep scrolling for more

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.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web More than 150,000 Americans have now died of COVID-19, a somber benchmark that stands alone in defining the toll of this pandemic on the United States. Taylor Kate Brown,, "Bay Briefing: What an incomplete statistic tells us about making COVID-19 less deadly," 30 July 2020 James Baldwin made this somber observation more than 50 years ago. Raoul Peck, The Atlantic, "James Baldwin Was Right All Along," 3 July 2020 Full Frontal also returned from break with Samantha Bee taking a somber tone as well. Heather Gardner,, "This week's best in late-night: John Oliver, Trevor Noah, and Samantha Bee on police brutality," 12 June 2020 The somber message comes as Wednesday marks the 100th day since Brown announced a sweeping stay-at-home order that sent the state’s economy sputtering but worked to slow the spread of the virus. oregonlive, "Coronavirus infections rising fastest among kids younger than 10, dimming prospects for Oregon’s school reopening plans," 1 July 2020 Mixer’s three partner town hall meetings all started on more somber notes, with streamers and members of the Mixer team eulogizing the platform. Washington Post, "The last days of Mixer," 30 June 2020 Speeches before the March in Patton Park included somber moments as well. Angie Jackson, Detroit Free Press, "Protesters thrown from Detroit police SUV after climbing on hood," 29 June 2020 Speeches before the March in Patton Park included somber moments as well. Evan Petzold, USA TODAY, "Detroit police SUV drives through crowd after protesters climb on hood," 29 June 2020 Many of the musical acts embodied that somber mood, with artists referencing the pro-Black sociopolitical uprisings in their performances. Ineye Komonibo,, "DaBaby Reenacted George Floyd’s Death At The BET Awards, But I Wish He Hadn’t," 29 June 2020

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.

See More

First Known Use of somber

1760, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for somber

French sombre

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about somber

Time Traveler for somber

Time Traveler

The first known use of somber was in 1760

See more words from the same year

Statistics for somber

Last Updated

5 Aug 2020

Cite this Entry

“Somber.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Aug. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for somber


How to pronounce somber (audio)

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

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on somber

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for somber

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with somber

Spanish Central: Translation of somber

Nglish: Translation of somber for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of somber for Arabic Speakers

Comments on somber

What made you want to look up somber? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


Test Your Vocabulary

Original Meanings Quiz

  • rembrandt painting a young scholar and his tutor
  • Which of the following is the earliest known sense of the word awe?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Bee Cubed

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!