Definition of saturnine in English:



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

    ‘a saturnine temperament’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘He was always to be found sulking in a saturnine fashion and behaving in a beastly way to Margaret or Ann.’
    • ‘A brusque, saturnine figure, Wilbur has attempted suicide by every possible means but has yet to succeed.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘There's something mysterious, worn-in, and sad about this place, something that corresponds to Jarmusch's saturnine, knowing outlook.’
    • ‘Where Kierkegaard was most inclined to become severe and saturnine, Hamann was most reckless in his rejoicing.’
    • ‘The portrayal is only historically accurate in the fact that the actor, like the real Richard, is handsome in a saturnine way.’
    • ‘We drove home in an uncomfortable silence, Grandma sensing my saturnine mood.’
    • ‘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.’
    gloomy, sombre, melancholy, melancholic, moody, miserable, lugubrious, dour, glum, unsmiling, humourless, grumpy, bad-tempered
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    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.’
      • ‘He was a bright boy from Yorkshire with a dark and saturnine look and laconic manner, and he was already writing strong verse.’
      • ‘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.’
      swarthy, dark, dark-skinned, dark-complexioned
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    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).