som·​no·​lent ˈsäm-nə-lənt How to pronounce somnolent (audio)
: of a kind likely to induce sleep
a somnolent sermon
: inclined to or heavy with sleep : drowsy
: sleepy sense 2
somnolent rivers
somnolently adverb

Did you know?

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."

Example Sentences

trying to teach somnolent students on a very hot day the somnolent hum of insects in the grass
Recent Examples on the Web As the saline infusion nears completion, the client may become somnolent. Seriously Science, Discover Magazine, 28 Oct. 2016 At an uncommon hour, when devoted nightcrawlers are switching from liquor to beer, and even the city that never sleeps slows to a semi-somnolent pace, the two fledgling men’s stars traded spectacular winners in Queens. Jason Gay, WSJ, 8 Sep. 2022 Bahnsen grew up reading Ditlevsen’s poems, and this one has a somnolent quality that lends itself to her dreamy, even cloudlike designs. New York Times, 9 Mar. 2022 Just last week, many European countries were still so somnolent about the threat Russia posed to Ukraine that Germany’s spy chief was caught unawares in Kyiv when the Kremlin invasion started. Washington Post, 28 Feb. 2022 The Herald Examiner building remained standing, albeit in a somnolent state. Los Angeles Times, 15 Nov. 2021 Today, yellow butterflies adorn Aracataca, a somnolent mini-Macondo a 2.5-hour drive south of the Caribbean city of Santa Marta. Christopher Baker, Travel + Leisure, 7 Jan. 2022 On Saturday, Tiger Stadium could be downright somnolent for a kickoff at 11 a.m. local time. Edgar Thompson,, 14 Oct. 2021 Although her eyes are open and piercingly blue, there is something of a somnolent haze about her, like a girl who has not yet awakened to her adulthood. Tom Teicholz, Forbes, 15 Sep. 2021 See More

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.

Word History


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

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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


Dictionary Entries Near somnolent

Cite this Entry

“Somnolent.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 9 Feb. 2023.

Kids Definition


som·​no·​lent ˈsäm-nə-lənt How to pronounce somnolent (audio)
: showing signs of not being fully awake

Medical Definition


som·​no·​lent -lənt How to pronounce somnolent (audio)
: inclined to or heavy with sleep : drowsy
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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

Challenging Words You Should Know

  • hedgehog reading a book
  • Often used to describe “the march of time,” what does inexorable mean?
Name That Thing

You know what it looks like… but what is it called?

Solve today's spelling word game by finding as many words as you can with using just 7 letters. Longer words score more points.

Can you make 12 words with 7 letters?