Definition of sepia in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /ˈsēpēə/


1A reddish-brown color associated particularly with monochrome photographs of the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Example sentences
  • Old sepia photographs of the new arrivals, dressed proudly in suits, ties and bowler hats soon gave way to faded images of a population transformed into farmers, builders and engineers.
  • The colour is a kind of brownish sepia and reminds one of old, well-loved photographs.
  • With skin tone colors of apricot, tan, sepia, mahogany, salmon, raw sienna, and burnt sienna, white was used primarily to alter shades and create a layered tint.
1.1A brown pigment prepared from a black fluid secreted by cuttlefish, used in monochrome drawing and in watercolors.
Example sentences
  • In the history of ink, which is rapidly coming to an end, the ancient world turns from the use of India ink to adopt sepia.
  • This little collection comprises ten porcelain and eight copper examples, all very carefully painted in polychrome enamels, sepia, and encre de Chine.
  • I bought several bottles of sepia ink in a Paris ink shop today, as I've used almost a bottle of brown ink on this tour.
1.2A drawing done with sepia.
1.3A blackish fluid secreted by a cuttlefish as a defensive screen.
Example sentences
  • At the end of the 18th century it gained in popularity as a drawing medium because a reliable method of chemical extraction was discovered which produced a concentrated ink from the natural sepia.
  • Avoid getting the sepia on your floatation suits, nothing marks like cuttle ink.


Of a reddish-brown color: old sepia photographs


Late Middle English (denoting a cuttlefish): via Latin from Greek sēpia 'cuttlefish'. The current senses date from the early 19th century.

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: se·pi·a

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.