Definition of sober in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈsəʊbə/

adjective (soberer, soberest)

1Not affected by alcohol; not drunk.
Example sentences
  • Drunk or sober, he was driven by a manic energy and impatience that made him a difficult friend and an almost impossible husband and father.
  • I got my bearings reasonably quickly, though, despite spending more time drunk than sober in the city centre.
  • Trust me, I've been around a few drunks and being sober and standing there trying to understand what they are saying is hard enough.
not drunk, not intoxicated, clear-headed, as sober as a judge;
teetotal, abstinent, non-drinking;
abstemious, temperate, moderate
informal on the wagon, dry
2Serious, sensible, and solemn: a sober view of life his expression became sober
More example sentences
  • The coverage was serious, it was sober, it was comprehensive, and the press really seemed in tune with the surge of patriotism in the country.
  • Instead, such a point should be one for sober and serious analysis of how we can address some of our key weaknesses and lay the foundations for future growth.
  • Their manifesto is sensible and sober, identifying issues that concern real people…
serious, sensible, solemn, thoughtful, grave, sombre, severe, earnest, sedate, staid, dignified, steady, level-headed, serious-minded, businesslike, down-to-earth, commonsensical, pragmatic, self-controlled, restrained, conservative;
strict, puritanical;
Scottish  douce
unemotional, dispassionate;
factual, realistic, objective;
low-key, matter-of-fact, prosaic, no-nonsense, rational, logical, straightforward, well considered, plain
2.1Muted in colour: a sober grey suit
More example sentences
  • Trouser suits and sober colours probably describe me best.
  • Kennedy, dressed in a sober grey suit, blushed as the press urged him to kiss his wife on the lips.
  • ‘I think I look a bit silly,’ he said as he surveyed the more sober colours surrounding the entrance to the County Stand.
sombre, restrained, subdued, severe, austere;
conventional, traditional, staid, unadventurous;
dark, dark-coloured, quiet, drab, plain


1Make or become sober after drinking alcohol: [with object]: that coffee sobered him up [no object]: I ought to sober up a bit
More example sentences
  • It is entirely acceptable to have a lie-down in the afternoon to sober up after lunch and prepare for more drinking at dinner.
  • Well, I had to get my beer drinking done quickly, so that I could sober up soon enough to return the van.
  • If drivers are very drunk, they will be locked in the cells to sober up.
become sober, become clear-headed
informal dry out
make sober, clear someone's head
informal dry out
1.1Make or become more serious, sensible, and solemn: [no object]: his expression sobered her (as adjective sobering) a sobering thought
More example sentences
  • The commander's approach was sufficient to sober down the concerned group, which quickly waved the white flag.
  • The play sobers up and offers serious moments, such as the anecdote of the Cuban immigrant's terrifying raft trip to the United States, leaving no doubt that beyond the humor there is a deep pool of thought and feeling.
  • She looked up to see his grim expression and immediately sobered.
become (more) serious, settle (down), relax, soften, steady, cool
make (more) serious;
subdue, calm down, quieten, steady;
bring to, bring down to earth, make reflective/pensive, make someone stop and think, give someone pause for thought


(as) sober as a judge

Completely sober.
Example sentences
  • I went to bed at 10:30 last night sober as a judge and slept right through to wake up at 8am this morning feeling terrible.
  • But on this occasion he sounded sober as a judge.
  • These are the people who will be sober as a judge (surely a contradiction in terms), will not miss a thing and will remember it all in the morning.



Example sentences
  • His soberingly scientific theory is that it comes down to something called acting.
  • The fabric is soberingly disgusting, and this is in an area that has no weather.
  • He was wearing a neck brace so loosely fashioned that it looked less like a helpful medical device than a prop from a high-school play, and at 10 o'clock on this soberingly cold morning, he seemed drunk.


Middle English: from Old French sobre, from Latin sobrius.

  • judge from Middle English:

    The word judge, recorded in English since the Middle Ages, looks back to a Latin word based on jus ‘law’ (the source also of just (Late Middle English), justice (Old English), injury (Late Middle English)), and dicere ‘to say’. Judges are often thought of as solemn and impressive figures, and the expression sober as a judge goes back to the 17th century, with sober originally meaning ‘serious, grave’ rather than ‘not drunk’.

Words that rhyme with sober

jojoba, Manitoba, October

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: sober

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