som·​no·​lent | \ ˈsäm-nə-lənt How to pronounce somnolent (audio) \

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

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Other Words from somnolent

somnolently adverb

Synonyms & Antonyms for somnolent


dozy, drowsy, sleepy, slumberous (or slumbrous)


alert, awake, conscious, wakeful, wide-awake

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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

In baseball runs are precious things that break through the night's uncomplicated and somnolent haze like a lightning bolt. Aj Willingham, CNN, "Explaining cricket, the world's second-most popular sport, to Americans," 13 July 2019 Doing so required considerable effort, because the somnolent beaches and the bustling capital city of Colombo tell one story of Sri Lanka, and the island’s Northern Province tells quite another. Robert Draper, National Geographic, "Sri Lanka’s latest violence underscores the need for national healing," 22 Apr. 2019 Here three people gather at the bedside of the somnolent d’Alembert, who triggers a four-way talkfest by giving voice to a wild, uninhibited fever-dream. Dan Hofstadter, WSJ, "‘Diderot’ Review: Wherever His Mind Led Him," 15 Feb. 2019 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

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.

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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

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Statistics for somnolent

Last Updated

22 Jul 2019

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Time Traveler for somnolent

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

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More Definitions for somnolent


som·​no·​lent | \ -lənt How to pronounce somnolent (audio) \

Medical Definition of somnolent

: inclined to or heavy with sleep : drowsy

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something desired as essential

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