Definition of subfusc in English:


Pronunciation /ˈsʌbfʌsk//sʌbˈfʌsk/


  • Dull; gloomy.

    ‘the light was subfusc and aqueous’
    • ‘Houses hunched like weary giants, wrapped in subfusc cloaks of night.’
    • ‘One remembers how audibly and visibly subfusc was the almost apologetic chorus in their otherwise excellent opera, Don Carlo.’
    • ‘But while Bill Alexander's new production has a fine, sombre, subfusc dignity, there were times when I guiltily hungered for a little more playful malevolence.’
    • ‘The original hues of the Crucifixion from S Giacomo degli Spagnoli (displayed in SS Marcellino e Festo) have been transformed into an unfortunate and unalterable subfusc.’
    • ‘Next, the costumes (by Toni-Leslie James), strictly subfusc, registering against Riccardo Hernández's brown set as murk on murk.’
    dark, ill-lit, poorly lit, shadowy, sunless, dim, sombre, dingy, frowzy, drab, dismal, dreary, murky, depressing, unwelcoming, uninviting, cheerless, joyless, comfortless, funereal
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mass nounBritish
  • The dark formal clothing worn for examinations and formal occasions at some universities.

    • ‘Well I guess I ought to get out of my subfusc, wipe the smudged makeup off my face and find some food.’
    • ‘Our readers should know he cut a fine figure in subfusc on his way to his viva.’
    • ‘One history finalist said, ‘We have to put up with University's traditions, wearing subfusc and the like, but they're not prepared to put up with ours.’’


Early 18th century: from Latin subfuscus, from sub- ‘somewhat’ + fuscus ‘dark brown’.