from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • adjective Showing a brooding ill humor or silent resentment; morose or sulky.
  • adjective Gloomy or somber in tone, color, or portent.
  • adjective Sluggish; slow.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • To make sullen, morose, or sulky.
  • Being alone; solitary; lonely; hence, single; unmarried.
  • Being but one; unique; hence, rare; remarkable.
  • Remaining alone through ill humor; unsociable; silent and cross; sulky; morose; glum.
  • Gloomy; dismal; somber.
  • Sad; sorrowful; melancholy.
  • Slow-moving; sluggish; dull: as, a sullen pace.
  • Malignant; unpropitious; foreboding ill; baleful.
  • Synonyms Gloomy, Sullen, Sulky, Morose, Splenetic. These words are arranged in the order of their intensity and of their degrees of activity toward others. Gloomy has the figurative suggestion of physical gloom or darkness: the gloomy man has little brightness in his mind, or he sees little light ahead. The sullen man is silent because he is sluggishly angry and somewhat bitter, and he repels friendly advances by silence and a lowering aspect rather than by words. The sulky person persists in being sullen beyond all reason and for mere whim: the young are often sulky. In the morose man there is an element of hate, and he meets advances with rudeness or cruel words: the young have rarely development of character enough to be morose. The splenetic man is sulky and peevish, with frequent outbursts of irritation venting itself upon persons or things. Any of these words may indicate either a temporary mood or a strong tendency of nature.
  • noun A solitary person; a recluse.
  • noun plural Sullen feelings; sulks; sullenness.
  • noun A meal for one person.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • adjective obsolete Lonely; solitary; desolate.
  • adjective Gloomy; dismal; foreboding.
  • adjective Mischievous; malignant; unpropitious.
  • adjective Gloomily angry and silent; cross; sour; affected with ill humor; morose.
  • adjective Obstinate; intractable.
  • adjective Heavy; dull; sluggish.
  • transitive verb obsolete To make sullen or sluggish.
  • noun obsolete One who is solitary, or lives alone; a hermit.
  • noun obsolete Sullen feelings or manners; sulks; moroseness.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • adjective Having a brooding ill temper; sulky.
  • adjective Dismal; somber.
  • adjective Sluggish; slow.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adjective showing a brooding ill humor
  • adjective darkened by clouds


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English solein, from Anglo-Norman solein, alone, from sol, single, from Latin sōlus, by oneself alone; see s(w)e- in Indo-European roots.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Middle English solein, from Anglo-Norman solein ("alone"), from sole ("single, sole, alone"), from Latin sōlus ("by oneself alone"). The change in meaning from "single" to morose occurred in Middle English.


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  • “I am afraid not,” Rysatam replied, his expression sullen.

    A Time to Sow Dayton Ward 2004

  • “I am afraid not,” Rysatam replied, his expression sullen.

    A Time to Sow Dayton Ward 2004

  • “I am afraid not,” Rysatam replied, his expression sullen.

    A Time to Sow Dayton Ward 2004

  • For Nau-hau, in sullen volcanic rage, was ripe to erupt at the slightest opportunity.

    CHAPTER X 2010

  • During all this work the sealers stood about in sullen groups.

    The Lost Poacher 2010

  • The problem is, this need for external validaion doesn't lead to changes when it fails to materialize ... rather, it seems to result in sullen ad hominem attacks on critics (witness "freedom fries").

    worse than china? 2005

  • Paolo followed her into the room, his expression sullen and inimical.

    The Count's Blackmail Bargain Craven, Sara 2005

  • Simon watched all this from a couple of yards away, his expression sullen or possibly jealous.

    Spin 2005

  • Her expression sullen, Janis whirled around without replying and walked back into the dressing room.

    Buried Alive, The Biography of Janis Joplin Friedman, Myra 1973

  • During all this work the sealers stood about in sullen groups.

    The Lost Poacher 1922


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  • In my craft or sullen art

    Exercised in the still night

    When only the moon rages

    And the lovers lie abed

    With all their griefs in their arms,

    I labour by singing light

    Not for ambition or bread

    Or the strut and trade of charms

    On the ivory stages

    But for the common wages

    Of their most secret heart.

    - Dylan Thomas, 'In My Craft or Sullen Art'.

    October 12, 2009

  • "Speaking of college applications, Edward, Charlie said, his tone even more sullen-he tried to avoid addressing Edward directly, and when he had to, it exacerbated his bad mood." Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer page19

    October 4, 2010

  • "...Stupid vampires. Stupid dress code. I was Sullen, with a capital S." -Club Dead, by Charlaine Harris

    February 5, 2011

  • A pointed example of usage in the sense of "solitary":

    "In much the same way good sullen reading is rare in a house, unless one is blessed with an impregnable and sound-proof room of one's own: interruptions, restless unnecessary movements, doors opening and closing, apologies, even whisperings, God forbid, and meal-times."

    —Patrick O'Brian, The Yellow Admiral (New York: W. W. Norton, 1996), p. 42.

    July 29, 2012