som·​no·​lent | \ˈsäm-nə-lənt \

Definition of somnolent 

1 : of a kind likely to induce sleep a somnolent sermon

2a : inclined to or heavy with sleep : drowsy

b : sleepy sense 2 somnolent rivers

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from somnolent

somnolently adverb

Synonyms & Antonyms for somnolent


dozy, drowsy, sleepy, slumberous (or slumbrous)


alert, awake, conscious, wakeful, wide-awake

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

The Sleepy History of Somnolent

Somnolent first appeared in the late 15th century in the redundant phrase "somnolent sleep." It came into English by way of Anglo-French from the Latin word somnolentus, which itself comes from somnus, meaning "sleep." Another offspring of somnus is somnambulism, a synonym of sleepwalking. Insomnia is also a member of this sleepy word family, though it might be considered the black sheep, since it means, of course, "the inability to sleep."

Examples of somnolent in a Sentence

trying to teach somnolent students on a very hot day the somnolent hum of insects in the grass

Recent Examples on the Web

Addicted to oil wealth, Saudi Arabia has become a somnolent and spoiled society, with a squabbling royal family of some 7,000 princes. Karen Elliott House, WSJ, "The Model for a Saudi Reformer," 17 July 2018 Suddenly changing gears from somnolent piano lines to driving propulsion and back again, the music has the blank moodiness of a score for a nonexistent film. Zachary Woolfe, New York Times, "Yanni Is Still Chilling, 25 Years After the Acropolis," 16 May 2018 Their long-somnolent town is suddenly encountering a group of international urbanites with gleamingly expensive and outlandishly new equipment: sophisticated farm machinery, spanking new mobile homes, Rolls Royces. Wendla Mcgovern, The New Republic, "Range War: The Disciples Come to Antelope," 12 Apr. 2018 Instead, America now has a system in which determined minorities routinely defeat somnolent majorities. Alan S. Blinder, The New Republic, "An economist’s view of the American political process," 22 Mar. 2018 Houston is an ascendant mid-major program with a legendary head coach who energized a somnolent fan base through suffocating defense, a team-first mentality and a roster of players overlooked or cast aside by college basketball’s big boys. Mark Zeigler,, "When SDSU faces Houston in NCAA Tournament, it many ways it's playing itself," 13 Mar. 2018 What remains constant throughout Macau, whether in the Macau Peninsula city-center or on the somnolent coast of Coloane, is the cuisine born from the interchange of Chinese and Portuguese flavors and cooking methods. Craig Cavallo, Condé Nast Traveler, "Macau, Beyond the Casino," 1 Feb. 2018 Playboi Carti looked somnolent during his performance. Jon Caramanica, New York Times, "‘TRL’ Is Back on MTV, but Undone by the Internet," 25 Oct. 2017 But good luck with the somnolent and politically spineless Ryan decoonstructing the GOP failure on Obamacare. James Warren,, "Trump Exposes His Empathy Gap with Puerto Rico," 26 Sep. 2017

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

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for somnolent

Middle English sompnolent, from Anglo-French, from Latin somnolentus, from somnus sleep; akin to Old English swefn sleep, Greek hypnos

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about somnolent

Listen to Our Podcast about somnolent

Statistics for somnolent

Last Updated

25 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for somnolent

The first known use of somnolent was in the 15th century

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for somnolent


som·​no·​lent | \-lənt \

Medical Definition of somnolent 

: inclined to or heavy with sleep : drowsy

More from Merriam-Webster on somnolent

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for somnolent

Comments on somnolent

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


to make faulty or ineffective

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Late Autumn 2018 Words of the Day Quiz

  • frosted-autumn-leaves
  • Which is a synonym of yahoo?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


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!