sul·​len | \ ˈsə-lən How to pronounce sullen (audio) \

Definition of sullen

1a : gloomily or resentfully silent or repressed a sullen crowd
b : suggesting a sullen state : lowering a sullen countenance
2 : dull or somber in sound or color
3 : dismal, gloomy a sullen morning
4 : moving sluggishly a sullen river

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from sullen

sullenly adverb
sullenness \ ˈsə-​lə(n)-​nəs How to pronounce sullenness (audio) \ noun

Choose the Right Synonym for sullen

sullen, glum, morose, surly, sulky, crabbed, saturnine, gloomy mean showing a forbidding or disagreeable mood. sullen implies a silent ill humor and a refusal to be sociable. remained sullen amid the festivities glum suggests a silent dispiritedness. a glum candidate left to ponder a stunning defeat morose adds to glum an element of bitterness or misanthropy. morose job seekers who are inured to rejection surly implies gruffness and sullenness of speech or manner. a typical surly teenager sulky suggests childish resentment expressed in peevish sullenness. grew sulky after every spat crabbed applies to a forbidding morose harshness of manner. the school's notoriously crabbed headmaster saturnine describes a heavy forbidding aspect or suggests a bitter disposition. a saturnine cynic always finding fault gloomy implies a depression in mood making for seeming sullenness or glumness. a gloomy mood ushered in by bad news

Examples of sullen in a Sentence

Economy got you down? Provocateur Ehrenreich … says: Don't try cheering yourself up.  … Her sharp, funny critique finds that sunny types don't necessarily live longer or better than grumps. Besides, can you really get rid of all negativity in your life? "It is not so easy," she notes, "to abandon the whiny toddler or the sullen teenager." — Richard Eisenberg, People, 26 Oct. 2009 The skies grew sullen and the air chillier, but it wasn't until the third day that the snow came. — Bill Bryson, A Walk In The Woods, 1999 Despite angry alumni calls and sullen students protests—including the cancellation of all fraternity parties at the school's annual Winter Carnival—the faculty unanimously voted in favor of the college's goal to make fraternities and sororities substantially coed, along with developing new social alternatives for its 4,300 undergraduates. — Anita Hamilton, Time, 1 Mar. 1999 sullen skies that matched our mood on the day of the funeral sullen and bored at his in-laws' house, he couldn't wait for the holidays to end
See More
Recent Examples on the Web The river at this point (more properly a fjord, a riverbed drowned by the sea) is vast and sullen. Richard Brookhiser, National Review, "A COVID Workout," 20 Aug. 2020 And Fishback's Robin feels more real than almost any other teenager in recent screen memory: funny and sullen and whip-smart, but also sensibly freaked out by the things that any other ordinary mortal would be. Leah Greenblatt,, "Jamie Foxx finds his sweet spot in Netflix's magic-pill thriller Project Power: Review," 13 Aug. 2020 Kelete was described by officers as reserved and sullen when he was arrested, according to court documents. Martha Bellisle, Anchorage Daily News, "1 of 2 protesters hit by driver on Seattle freeway dies," 5 July 2020 Next came sullen acceptance, followed by weeks filled with virtual non-learning and video games. Sydney Trent, Washington Post, "Summer jobs for teens are scarce, but a little boredom has its benefits," 24 May 2020 Young Ned, a sullen elf with blond baby-bangs and wary eyes (played, wonderfully, by Orlando Schwerdt), gets his first lessons in mistrust from his mother, Ellen (Essie Davis). Stephanie Zacharek, Time, "True History of the Kelly Gang," 15 Apr. 2020 Even when June is 9 and embarrassed by me or 16 and sullen or 30 and exasperated with my overbearing wedding requests. Marian Schembari, New York Times, "My Childhood Went Viral Before Social Media," 17 Apr. 2020 The Garden went from lifeless and sullen to loud and lovin’ it., "With 7:38 left in regulation, Marchand ripped a wicked, one-footed snapper far side on Hart to tie the score at 2, following up Heinen’s tally 5:59 into the third. The Garden went from lifeless and sullen to loud and lovin’ it.," 11 Nov. 2019 And while generally aggressive, their mood can change hourly, from belligerent to sullen. Dave Hurteau, Field & Stream, "The 7 Best Baits for Spring Smallmouth Bass," 22 Apr. 2020

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

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for sullen

Middle English solein solitary, from Anglo-French sulein, solain, perhaps from sol, soul single, sole + -ain after Old French soltain solitary, private, from Late Latin solitaneus, ultimately from Latin solus alone

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about sullen

Time Traveler for sullen

Time Traveler

The first known use of sullen was in the 14th century

See more words from the same century

Statistics for sullen

Last Updated

29 Aug 2020

Cite this Entry

“Sullen.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Sep. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for sullen


How to pronounce sullen (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of sullen

used to describe an angry or unhappy person who does not want to talk, smile, etc.
literary : gray and dark


sul·​len | \ ˈsə-lən How to pronounce sullen (audio) \

Kids Definition of sullen

1 : not sociable : sulky Laura tried to cheer him up … but he only grew more sullen.— Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little House on the Prairie
2 : gloomy sense 1, dreary a sullen sky

Other Words from sullen

sullenly adverb

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on sullen

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


Test Your Vocabulary

Homophone Quiz

  • three bears two of them look like theyre whispering to a third bear who looks chuffed to be the center of attention
  • In order to judge how people felt, the senator's office hired a firm to take a ______.
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Syn City

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!