Definition of saturnine in English:



  • 1(of a person or their manner) gloomy.

    ‘a saturnine temperament’
    • ‘He was always to be found sulking in a saturnine fashion and behaving in a beastly way to Margaret or Ann.’
    • ‘The most eccentric classics teacher at our school - whom I shall call Mrs Penny - had arrived with a male companion who was intriguingly scruffy and saturnine.’
    • ‘Where Kierkegaard was most inclined to become severe and saturnine, Hamann was most reckless in his rejoicing.’
    • ‘Then she simply stays in bed all the following day, drinking tea, eating chocolates and reading about strong-jawed, saturnine heroes and almond-eyed heiresses disguised as pageboys.’
    • ‘There's something mysterious, worn-in, and sad about this place, something that corresponds to Jarmusch's saturnine, knowing outlook.’
    • ‘Perrault's ‘Bluebeard’ is the story of a rich, middle-aged gentleman, named for his swarthy chin and saturnine manner, who marries a young woman.’
    • ‘We drove home in an uncomfortable silence, Grandma sensing my saturnine mood.’
    • ‘A brusque, saturnine figure, Wilbur has attempted suicide by every possible means but has yet to succeed.’
    • ‘The portrayal is only historically accurate in the fact that the actor, like the real Richard, is handsome in a saturnine way.’
    • ‘Not at all sepia but still in keeping with the gallery's saturnine tendencies are the mixed-medium reliefs of Einar and Jamex de la Torre, brothers whose work is often inspired by vernacular Latino culture.’
    gloomy, sombre, melancholy, melancholic, moody, miserable, lugubrious, dour, glum, unsmiling, humourless, grumpy, bad-tempered
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 (of a person or their features) dark in colouring and moody or mysterious.
      ‘his saturnine face and dark, watchful eyes’
      • ‘As Claudio, Günter von Kannen is saturnine in both figure and voice.’
      • ‘The smile has returned to Craig's saturnine features.’
      • ‘Dark and saturnine, he is a strong screen presence with natural brooding ability, and he holds things steady when a last-ditch attempt to end on a thrill causes the film to falter.’
      • ‘He was a bright boy from Yorkshire with a dark and saturnine look and laconic manner, and he was already writing strong verse.’
      swarthy, dark, dark-skinned, dark-complexioned
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2 (of a place or an occasion) gloomy.
      ‘a saturnine setting’
  • 2archaic Relating to lead.


Late Middle English (as a term in astrology): from Old French saturnin, from medieval Latin Saturninus ‘of Saturn’ (identified with lead by the alchemists and associated with slowness and gloom by astrologers).