Printable Version
Pronunciation: -lên Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: Gloomy, ill-tempered, moody.

Notes: Today's word has become entirely Anglicized; its only family is a regular noun, sullenness, and adverb, sullenly. Don't forget to double the L in the middle of this word.

In Play: Sullen most often refers to a human mood: "Ronald was sullen and sulky for a month after he ran over his dog in the driveway." However, this word is open to figurative uses: "The picnic was moved indoors when the sky grew menacingly sullen."

Word History: Today's Good Word is the development of Middle English soleyn "unique, singular", borrowed from Anglo-French solein, a makeover of Old French solain "lonely". The semantic shift in Middle English from "solitary" to "morose" occurred in the late 14th century. Solain was based on Latin solus "by oneself, alone", also the source of English sole. Latin inherited solus from PIE solo- "whole", which also went into the making of Latin solidus "solid". Solidus was reduced to solide in Old French, at which point English simply removed the final E, and voila! Solid! Solo- was also the source of Latin salvus "healthy", which we see in all sorts of English borrowings: salve, salvation, and Salvador. (Lest we leave Joakim Larsson sullen, let's now thank him for suggesting today's historically rich Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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