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sol·​i·​tary ˈsä-lə-ˌter-ē How to pronounce solitary (audio)
: being, living, or going alone or without companions
: saddened by isolation
: unfrequented, desolate
a solitary seashore
: taken, passed, or performed without companions
a solitary ramble
: keeping a prisoner apart from others
solitary confinement
: being at once single and isolated
a solitary example
: occurring singly and not as part of a group or cluster
flowers terminal and solitary
: not gregarious, colonial, social, or compound
solitary bees
solitarily adverb
solitariness noun


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plural solitaries
: one who lives or seeks to live a solitary life : recluse
: solitary confinement in prison
put him in solitary
Choose the Right Synonym for solitary

alone, solitary, lonely, lonesome, lone, forlorn, desolate mean isolated from others.

alone stresses the objective fact of being by oneself with slighter notion of emotional involvement than most of the remaining terms.

everyone needs to be alone sometimes

solitary may indicate isolation as a chosen course

glorying in the calm of her solitary life

but more often it suggests sadness and a sense of loss.

left solitary by the death of his wife

lonely adds to solitary a suggestion of longing for companionship.

felt lonely and forsaken

lonesome heightens the suggestion of sadness and poignancy.

an only child often leads a lonesome life

lone may replace lonely or lonesome but typically is as objective as alone.

a lone robin pecking at the lawn

forlorn stresses dejection, woe, and listlessness at separation from one held dear.

a forlorn lost child

desolate implies inconsolable grief at loss or bereavement.

desolate after her brother's death

Example Sentences

Adjective He took a solitary walk on the beach. A solitary house stood on top of the cliff. Most cats are solitary creatures. He's a very solitary man. Noun The prisoner was kept in solitary. weary of European civilization, the painter Paul Gauguin famously abandoned France to become a solitary in the South Seas See More
Recent Examples on the Web
However, a sitooterie isn’t necessarily a solitary place: With plenty of spots to curl up, chill, and enjoy the outdoors, a sitooterie is a perfect gathering space with friends and family for food, drinks, and plenty of conversation. Sharon Greenthal, Better Homes & Gardens, 3 Mar. 2023 Feeling emphatically, dizzyingly grateful to be a solitary whole, not a half of something else. Eliza Dumais, Travel + Leisure, 14 Feb. 2023 There’s rich whole milk (life’s too short for skim), a solitary egg and two — that’s right, two — sticks of oh-so-sweet cream butter. Allison Robicelli, Washington Post, 8 Feb. 2023 These solitary blooms like to pop up in wooded areas. Arricca Elin Sansone, Country Living, 4 Feb. 2023 The Neanderthals likely used thrusting and throwing spears, which have been found at another site in Germany, to target male elephants because of their larger size and solitary behavior, said study coauthor Wil Roebroeks, a professor of Paleolithic archaeology at Leiden University in Germany. Katie Hunt, CNN, 2 Feb. 2023 At mink farms, thousands of such solitary carnivores are forced to live together, creating ideal conditions for the avian virus to adapt to mammals. Bykai Kupferschmidt,, 24 Jan. 2023 Director Sarah Polley seems to have taken the news in good humor, but combined with last week’s poor showing at the guilds, a film that once appeared a top-level contender may have to content itself with a solitary Adapted Screenplay nod. Nate Jones, Vulture, 20 Jan. 2023 Actually, quite the opposite: Banshees is set to be her solitary IMDb credit. Alex Ritman, The Hollywood Reporter, 17 Jan. 2023
One man was taken to solitary to pressure him to end his hunger strike. María Inés Taracena, The New Republic, 12 Apr. 2023 Guilt, confession, penitence — this legacy vocabulary of criminal justice calls back to a time when confinement was about reform and salvation, before modern punishment turned exclusively on physical torture, the amateur savagery of shower-rape jokes, random beat-downs, the cruelty of solitary. New York Times, 7 June 2022 Their solitary and, as Sonya sees it, sublime, life involves many mini-adventures and nesting at home in front of the TV. Mary Cadden, USA TODAY, 8 Dec. 2021 A couple teach their young son to ride his bike in the deserted parking lot, while a solitary can rattles down the road. Marcus Barnes, Billboard, 23 Oct. 2020 With its sprawling freeways and solitary, car-centric culture, Los Angeles is not known as an easy place to make friends. Los Angeles Times, 4 Aug. 2022 Witnesses at the hearing told the committee that any time in solitary can be life-altering. Annie Waldman, ProPublica, 28 Apr. 2022 How has your thinking about reading as a solitary or a social act evolved during this time? Eve Bowen, The New York Review of Books, 5 Mar. 2022 In retaliation, Cohen says he was sent back to prison and spent 16 days in solitary until a federal judge intervened. Dan Berman, CNN, 12 Feb. 2022 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'solitary.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History



Middle English, solitarie, from Anglo-French, from Latin solitarius, from solitas aloneness, from solus alone

First Known Use


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


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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

Dictionary Entries Near solitary

Cite this Entry

“Solitary.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 31 May. 2023.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 adjective
sol·​i·​tary ˈsäl-ə-ˌter-ē How to pronounce solitary (audio)
: all alone
a solitary traveler
: seldom visited : lonely
: being the only one : sole
solitary example
: growing or living alone : not forming part of a group or cluster
flowers at the end of the stalk and solitary
the solitary wasps


2 of 2 noun
plural solitaries
: one who lives or seeks to live a solitary life : recluse, hermit

Medical Definition


sol·​i·​tary ˈsäl-ə-ˌter-ē How to pronounce solitary (audio)
: occurring singly and not as part of a group
a solitary lesion

More from Merriam-Webster on solitary

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