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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.
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 sombre
  • He looked suitably sombre and called the colonial system unjust.
  • They have rescued the peace process, but the mood is sombre.
  • But the mood of the building's occupants is sombre these days.
  • His sombre view of history explains why he tries to block pork of any kind.
  • Instead, the speech was a sombre affair, and the popular reaction muted.
  • Such a sombre conclusion invites the question of whether this week's bail-out makes any sense.
  • The solemnity of his manner was in studious accord with his sombre garb.
  • It was a sombre snowy afternoon, and the gas-lamps were lit in the big reverberating station.
  • Prisons and burial-vaults are its sombre background.
  • sombre as it was, it put on the kindest of its moods to welcome her.
British Dictionary definitions for sombre


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
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Word Origin and History for sombre

chiefly British English spelling of somber (q.v.); for spelling, see -re.



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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