Definition of sombre in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈsɒmbə/
(US also somber)


1Dark or dull in colour or tone: the night skies were sombre and starless
More example sentences
  • Neutral colours can look too bland and dark colours too sombre.
  • The paintings seem at first to be sombre in tone, coloured mostly by umbers and sepia-like hues.
  • Striped pants and jackets come in sombre or bold colours, and vertical striped sports shirts in uneven or even patterns.
dark, dark-coloured, dull, dull-coloured, drab, dingy, shady;
restrained, subdued, sober, funereal, severe, austere
2Having or conveying a feeling of deep seriousness and sadness: he looked at her with a sombre expression
More example sentences
  • He wore a gray uniform with a long coat and heavy leather boots and his face wore a stern, somber expression.
  • You could have gone two ways with this thing and been very sombre and serious about this subject.
  • Sharma reported it all in a deep and somber voice, manly but sensitive.
solemn, earnest, serious, grave, sober, unsmiling, poker-faced, stern, grim, dour, humourless, stony-faced;
gloomy, depressed, sad, melancholy, dismal, doleful, mournful, joyless, cheerless, lugubrious, funereal, sepulchral



Pronunciation: /ˈsɒmbəli/
Example sentences
  • Dozens of officers forming a Guard of Honour snapped to attention as the procession, headed by two mounted officers and the solitary drummer, sombrely approached the building.
  • Participants and onlookers stood sombrely as a single cannon shot heralded the silence, which marks the beginning of the armistice on November 11 1918.
  • The stained glass windows are of the expected bright colouring and the dark choir stalls sombrely face each other from both sides of the aisle, in the usual manner.


Pronunciation: /ˈsɒmbənəs/
Example sentences
  • The Soho streets, their sombreness heightened by the glorious evening sunshine that flooded the near empty pavements on Thursday night, were alive again.
  • You could hear the sombreness of the vast Finnish forests, the determination and endurance of her people, and the ingenuity of its composer in striking degree here.
  • And if the passing of the great man brought a sombreness to the mood, that wasn't lifted by what happened on the pitch.


Mid 18th century: from French, based on Latin sub 'under' + umbra 'shade'.

  • If you are in a sombre mood you can be thought of as being under a shadow, rather like those cartoons showing a dark cloud hanging over a person's head. The word came into English from French in the middle of the 18th century but was based on Latin sub ‘under’ and umbra ‘shade or shadow’. Sombrero, the broad-brimmed hat, is a Spanish word with a similar origin. See also umbrella

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: som¦bre

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