Definition of sullen in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /ˈsʌlən/


1Bad-tempered and sulky: a sullen pout
More example sentences
  • After she declined a proposal to have dinner with him he returned to his more sullen and sulky ways.
  • This hope was dashed when she walked into the dining room to find him still sullen and sulky.
  • Those who should ask questions either do not bother to show up, knowing they will not be called, or sit in sullen silence.
surly, sulky, pouting, sour, morose, resentful, glum, moody, gloomy, joyless, frowning, glowering, grumpy, touchy, peevish, indignant, embittered;
bad-tempered, ill-tempered, cross, angry, testy;
unresponsive, uncommunicative, unsociable, uncivil, unmannerly, unfriendly
informal stroppy
1.1(Of the sky) full of dark clouds: a sullen sunless sky


(the sullens) archaic
A sulky or depressed mood.
Example sentences
  • When I mentioned this, he lapsed back into the sullens.
  • He led her into a respectable inn and ordered a dinner to charm her out of the sullens.



Pronunciation: /ˈsʌlənli/
Example sentences
  • She sullenly plops herself in a chair out in the hallway, pouting and petulant and waiting for the people strolling in to recognize her.
  • ‘Not an astronaut's usual escape route,’ he observed sullenly from the rear of our Chrysler Neon.
  • Audience members will either guffaw heartily, or brood sullenly.


Pronunciation: /ˈsʌlənnəs/
Example sentences
  • Anger or sullenness are certainly well-used tools in my emotional repertoire, but their employ doesn't usually lead to a happy ending for anyone in the household.
  • It is the same with his cynical suspiciousness and resentful sullenness.
  • The symptoms of sullenness, withdrawal and irritability are hard for others to ignore.


Middle English (in the senses 'solitary, averse to company', and 'unusual'): from Anglo-Norman French sulein, from sol 'sole'.

  • To be sullen originally related to the idea of being on your own. The source is Old French sulein, from sol ‘sole, alone’, which came ultimately from Latin solus ‘alone’. Early meanings were ‘single’, ‘solitary’, and ‘unusual’. There is obviously a link between being solitary and being averse to company or unsociable, and such associations led in the late 14th century to a shift in sense as the word came to describe someone who is silently gloomy, resentful, and moody.

Words that rhyme with sullen


For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: sul¦len

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.

Related Words