Definition of sullen in English:


Pronunciation /ˈsələn/

See synonyms for sullen

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  • 1Bad-tempered and sulky; gloomy.

    ‘a sullen pout’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Outside the fine rain had abated, leaving it its wake a sullen spring sky of pencil grey.’
    • ‘Anthony Hopkins goes from sullen silence to wordy sermonising as an unhinged anthropologist in this heavy-handed drama.’
    • ‘Or do you picture them caked in mud, bodies swarming with lice, marching in sullen silence?’
    • ‘Mounting the pulpit they appealed for calm and secured a sullen silence.’
    • ‘Bolton itself also belied any clichéd image of drab northern towns under sullen skies.’
    • ‘Boscaini manages to say this entirely convincingly under a sullen, grey sky in Dublin.’
    • ‘I shrink into myself and become sullen and uncommunicative.’
    • ‘There's a sullen, and increasingly angry mood on the issue.’
    • ‘At best you will achieve a sullen and resentful compliance.’
    • ‘If I do that, it will make him sullen and resentful and unmotivated to control his desire to hit when he is angry.’
    • ‘It squats at the bottom of the pail like a sullen garden toad, refusing to budge.’
    • ‘The Dutch of the 19th century were portrayed as gloomy and sullen preachers and educators.’
    • ‘She's childish, sullen, moody and volatile, prone to outbursts of jealousy, weeping, rage and laughter.’
    • ‘But prepare for the inevitable crash of emotions as the money is spent and the glow fades and you end up gloomy and sullen.’
    • ‘Soon enough, though, I'd had enough of walking, the sky grew more and more sullen, and the temperature dropped.’
    • ‘He leans back and crosses his hands over his chest, a sullen expression on his lean, sculpted face.’
    • ‘A couple of tourists are sitting in a brasserie on the Boulevard-St-Germain and their waiter is sullen, slow and brings the wrong order.’
    surly, sulky, pouting, sour, morose, resentful, glum, moody, gloomy, joyless, frowning, glowering, grumpy, touchy, peevish, indignant, embittered
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    1. 1.1(of the sky) full of dark clouds.
      • ‘a sullen sunless sky’


  • the sullensA sulky or depressed mood.

    ‘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.’


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