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so·​ber ˈsō-bər How to pronounce sober (audio)
: not intoxicated
He's a half-decent guy when he's sober, but when he's drunk, he's just not accountable for what he does, and he spends a lot of time drunk.Stephen King
: abstaining from drinking alcohol or taking intoxicating drugs : refraining from the use of addictive substances (see substance sense 3c)
Blossom learns that life isn't always rosy, especially for recovering substance abusers, when she discovers her brother Anthony—clean and sober for two years—wilting when he's tempted by a liquor bottle.TV Guide
: sparing in the use of food and drink : abstemious
He was a large, saturnine man, … comparatively sober in his habits, as people must be who make money out of other people's vices.Dorothy L. Sayers
: marked by sedate or gravely or earnestly thoughtful character or demeanor
: marked by temperance, moderation, or seriousness
a sober candlelight vigil
: subdued in tone or color
: showing no excessive or extreme qualities of fancy, emotion, or prejudice
soberly adverb
soberness noun


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sobered; sobering ˈsō-b(ə-)riŋ How to pronounce sober (audio)

transitive verb

: to make sober

intransitive verb

: to become sober
usually used with up
Choose the Right Synonym for sober

serious, grave, solemn, sedate, staid, sober, earnest mean not light or frivolous.

serious implies a concern for what really matters.

a serious play about social injustice

grave implies both seriousness and dignity in expression or attitude.

read the proclamation in a grave voice

solemn suggests an impressive gravity utterly free from levity.

a sad and solemn occasion

sedate implies a composed and decorous seriousness.

remained sedate amid the commotion

staid suggests a settled, accustomed sedateness and prim self-restraint.

a quiet and staid community

sober stresses seriousness of purpose and absence of levity or frivolity.

a sober look at the state of our schools

earnest suggests sincerity or often zealousness of purpose.

an earnest reformer

Example Sentences

Adjective I'm driving, so I have to stay sober tonight. He is a sober, hardworking farmer. The story is a sober look at drug abuse. Illness is a sober reminder of our mortality. The article is a sober reflection on the state of our nation. Verb He returned home from the war, saddened and sobered by his experiences. See More
Recent Examples on the Web
Cooper gives us all of Costello, from her sweet love for her daughter and her pride at having gotten sober to her moments of explosive rage. Matthew Gilbert,, 8 Mar. 2023 After breaking her son’s no-drinking house rules, Leslie returns to her small West Texas hometown to stay with her former friends, get sober and face her demons. Danielle Directo-meston, The Hollywood Reporter, 26 Jan. 2023 The couple said what would help motivate them to get sober is housing. Mallory Moench, San Francisco Chronicle, 5 Dec. 2022 Between 2020 and 2021, the pair got sober and underwent therapy, returning this year with Sing Me a Lullaby, My Sweet Temptation, technically their 47th project. Mackenzie Cummings-grady, Billboard, 7 Oct. 2022 San Pedro underwent a 48-day treatment in the same facility in Miami that had helped his brother get sober three years earlier. Ben Crandell, Sun Sentinel, 10 Sep. 2022 Elysse got sober before entering college but soon found that seemingly everyone on her dorm floor habitually used weed. New York Times, 23 June 2022 Writer Don Birnam has been sober for only a few days, but his brother, Wick (played by Phillip Terry) is supposed to visit for the weekend—and Don is eager for a drink. Emily Burack, Town & Country, 26 Jan. 2023 Especially as a younger person and somebody who got sober at 19. Cathy Applefeld Olson, Forbes, 14 Feb. 2023
While Gonzaga and Arizona were both ranked in the top five when the Wildcats passed through Spokane last season, both are now coming off the sort of tough losses that can sober up the mood a little. Bruce Pascoe, The Arizona Republic, 27 Jan. 2023 Maybe that sobering memory ultimately convinced him to sober up. Vulture, 29 Dec. 2022 Kai went to his mother's house in Lahaina to sober up. Dateline Nbc, NBC News, 6 Dec. 2022 Workers who show up drunk these days are sent home to sober up. Sydney Ember Kim Raff, New York Times, 12 Oct. 2022 From a dovish Fed that spiked the proverbial punch bowl to a hawkish one that's trying to sober everyone up with higher interest rates. Allison Morrow, CNN, 4 Aug. 2022 Reality can quickly sober the joy of auction victory. Orlando Mayorquin, USA TODAY, 1 July 2022 Friedman sets the scene by reminding us that starting well before 1973, Cohen had a reputation for being gloomy and restless, prone to depression and drugs, and whether high or sober a seductive charmer of women. Washington Post, 15 Apr. 2022 Schmidt explained to the nurse that there was nothing for her father to sober up from. Kelly Davis, San Diego Union-Tribune, 4 Apr. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'sober.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History



Middle English sobre, from Anglo-French, from Latin sobrius; akin to Latin ebrius drunk

First Known Use


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


14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense

Time Traveler
The first known use of sober was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near sober

Cite this Entry

“Sober.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Mar. 2023.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 adjective
so·​ber ˈsō-bər How to pronounce sober (audio)
soberer -bər-ər How to pronounce sober (audio) ; soberest -b(ə-)rəst How to pronounce sober (audio)
: sparing especially in the use of food and drink
: not drunk
: having a serious attitude : solemn
: having a quiet tone or color
: well reasoned and balanced
a sober decision
soberly adverb
soberness noun


2 of 2 verb
sobered; sobering -b(ə-)riŋ How to pronounce sober (audio)
: to make or become sober

More from Merriam-Webster on sober

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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