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

Compare this with the somnolent life of India’s developers. Andy Mukherjee | Bloomberg, Washington Post, "India’s Sleepwalking to Trouble on Builder Debt," 17 Feb. 2019 The museum is open, sort of Speaking of 1960s cultural temples: Mary McNamara has a column on LACMA‘s somnolent state. Los Angeles Times, "Essential Arts: The impenetrable Music Center gets an accessible new look," 24 Aug. 2019 Instead, more than a month passed before Mueller’s somnolent objection finally leaked its way into public knowledge. Kevin Baker, Harper's magazine, "The Deep State of Dementia," 19 Aug. 2019 For a kid growing up between small-town Pennsylvania and the somnolent Warsaw of the late 1980s, this was potent stuff to dream with. Jacob Mikanowski, Harper's magazine, "The Call of the Drums," 21 July 2019 Now, handlers approached with the next round of sedation darts, followed soon by the somnolent march into metal crates for the drive north to Mswati airport. New York Times, "Zoos Called It a ‘Rescue.’ But Are the Elephants Really Better Off?," 9 July 2019 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

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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Last Updated

30 Sep 2019

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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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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 wander slowly or to speak indistinctly

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