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[som-ber] /ˈsɒm bər/
gloomily dark; shadowy; dimly lighted:
a somber passageway.
dark and dull, as color, or as things in respect to color:
a somber dress.
gloomy, depressing, or dismal:
a somber mood.
extremely serious; grave:
a somber expression on his face.
Also, especially British, sombre.
Origin of somber
1750-60; < French sombre, Middle French, probably noun derivative of *sombrer to make shady < Vulgar Latin *subumbrāre, equivalent to Latin sub- sub- + umbrāre to cast a shadow, derivative of umbra shade
Related forms
somberly, adverb
somberness, noun
unsomber, adjective
unsomberly, adverb
unsomberness, noun
1. dusky, murky, sunless. 3. lugubrious, mournful, doleful, melancholy.
1. bright. 3. cheerful. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for somber
  • In the spring and summer time all somber thoughts should follow the winter northward with the somber and thoughtful crows.
  • Should things go south they could always put a somber face and say that they tried to the best of their efforts.
  • And the depressed to read the somber headlines and latest violence half a world away.
  • They were often leaning on rocks, and their thoughts were somber thoughts.
  • It was an oddly effusive greeting in what is typically a somber moment: the victor offering his condolences to the vanquished.
  • Sometimes it's frantic and up-tempo and other times it's jumpy and swinging and other times it's slow and somber.
  • The next day, the racing pits were silent and somber, as shell-shocked crews packed up trailers and equipment.
  • Sorry to start this gorgeous summer day on an exceedingly somber note, but it's time to talk suicide.
  • Serious journalism did not have to be restricted to traditional somber subjects.
  • It was a dark and somber time, and he had a dark and somber vision of mankind and of himself.
British Dictionary definitions for somber


dismal; melancholy: a sombre mood
dim, gloomy, or shadowy
(of colour, clothes, etc) sober, dull, or dark
Derived Forms
sombrely, (US) somberly, adverb
sombreness, (US) somberness, noun
sombrous (ˈsɒmbrəs) adjective
Word Origin
C18: from French, from Vulgar Latin subumbrāre (unattested) to shade, from Latin sub beneath + umbra shade
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for somber

1760 "gloomy, shadowy" (earlier sombrous, c.1730), from French sombre "dark, gloomy," from Old French sombre (14c.), from an adjective from Late Latin subumbrare "to shadow," from sub "under" (see sub-) + umbra "shade, shadow," perhaps from a suffixed form of PIE *andho- "blind, dark" (see umbrage). Related: Somberly; somberness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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