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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
His solitary existence drives him to talk back to the security footage on the TV. Murtada Elfadl, Variety, 16 Mar. 2023 Until Friday’s game in Mesa, when Seager also singled twice, the Rangers figured their $32.5 million shortstop was the beneficiary of only a solitary single that would have been swallowed up in the shift. Kevin Sherrington, Dallas News, 11 Mar. 2023 Newsletter Introduction One major conjecture about noncongruence modular forms has long stood out, however: a solitary, unsteady signpost in the desert. Jordana Cepelewicz, Quanta Magazine, 9 Mar. 2023 You season 4 finds Joe's solitary new life in London disrupted by a murder and a new pack of terrible acquaintances. Sara Netzley,, 9 Feb. 2023 One day, his blissfully solitary life is interrupted by Frank, who has fallen into one of Bill’s traps. Tracy Brownstaff Writer, Los Angeles Times, 1 Feb. 2023 Pope Benedict XVI, was the reluctant pope, a shy bookworm who preferred solitary walks in the Alps and Mozart piano concertos to the public glare and majesty of Vatican pageantry. Jacques Kelly, Baltimore Sun, 1 Jan. 2023 Bobcats are solitary, elusive animals that are active at night. Cliff Pinckard, cleveland, 14 Dec. 2022 Humans are social creatures, and loneliness can be debilitating — yet, many have discovered solace in the solitary life. Longreads, 1 Dec. 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. NBC News, 28 Apr. 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 Machen’s father was an impecunious clergyman, his mother an invalid, and their son a solitary but not lonely child. Michael Dirda, The New York Review of Books, 28 May 2020 See More

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

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 24 Mar. 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

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