Definition of sepia in English:



  • 1A reddish-brown color associated particularly with monochrome photographs of the 19th and early 20th centuries.

    • ‘Each shows the head and shoulders of young woman in tones of pinky sepia on the left, partnered by a fragment of landscape on the right.’
    • ‘The sepia tone was beautifully reproduced and each photograph was pin sharp.’
    • ‘In the larger of these, the backgrounds are sepia, white, black, deep yellow, peachy sienna.’
    • ‘I've heard a rumour that, if you process a film to have a slight brownish or sepia tint, it's almost like a built-in filter so it does something neat to the contrast when you print it.’
    • ‘The sepia coloured calendar, which is selling well, is available from the Canal Street pub at £3.99.’
    • ‘As the days grow shorter and cooler, plants take on new personas, ripening into warm gold, russet, and sepia tones.’
    • ‘The cinematography is faultless, combining pale green and sepia tints to allow the grittiness of a bounty hunter's profession to pervade, involving the audience in the action.’
    • ‘Old sepia photographs of the new arrivals, dressed proudly in suits, ties and bowler hats soon gave way to faded images of a population transformed into farmers, builders and engineers.’
    • ‘Australia's so bright, Ireland is so green, and wet, and America has this sort of sepia brown colour that has a lot to do with the portraits you show of the Native Americans.’
    • ‘Without using paint, brushes, pencil, charcoal or any other conventional tools, she makes images in shades of grey, black, yellow and sepia.’
    • ‘She was no different, an icon of gold, camouflaged against the beige and sepia surroundings of Alexandria.’
    • ‘The sepia tinted tableau is reminiscent of the opening, as a single file of prisoners traipse, gaunt and dirty, into the showers like animals to the slaughter.’
    • ‘It's a lush but creepy film, shot not in black-and-white but muted sepia tones that lend it an eerily timeless quality normally associated with old, brittle, yellow snapshots curled at the corners.’
    • ‘Each of these mysterious projections varies slightly in color: one has a greenish tint, another looks silvery, another is almost sepia.’
    • ‘The colour is a kind of brownish sepia and reminds one of old, well-loved photographs.’
    • ‘In contrast to the smaller book, however, the large book (with its helpful plastic cover) lushly renders each project in colour and in gorgeous black, sepia and white.’
    • ‘His drawings were primarily in and executed in rich sepia hues.’
    • ‘With skin tone colors of apricot, tan, sepia, mahogany, salmon, raw sienna, and burnt sienna, white was used primarily to alter shades and create a layered tint.’
    • ‘They seem slightly underexposed, and a sepia tone gives them the look of faded vintage photographs.’
    • ‘This stark palette fades to sepia, then finally emerges into full color.’
    hazel, chocolate-coloured, coffee-coloured, cocoa-coloured, nut-brown
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1A brown pigment prepared from a black fluid secreted by cuttlefish, used in monochrome drawing and in watercolors.
      • ‘This little collection comprises ten porcelain and eight copper examples, all very carefully painted in polychrome enamels, sepia, and encre de Chine.’
      • ‘I bought several bottles of sepia ink in a Paris ink shop today, as I've used almost a bottle of brown ink on this tour.’
      • ‘In the history of ink, which is rapidly coming to an end, the ancient world turns from the use of India ink to adopt sepia.’
    2. 1.2A drawing done with sepia.
    3. 1.3A blackish fluid secreted by a cuttlefish as a defensive screen.
      • ‘At the end of the 18th century it gained in popularity as a drawing medium because a reliable method of chemical extraction was discovered which produced a concentrated ink from the natural sepia.’
      • ‘Avoid getting the sepia on your floatation suits, nothing marks like cuttle ink.’


  • Of a reddish-brown color.

    [as modifier] ‘old sepia photographs’


Late Middle English (denoting a cuttlefish): via Latin from Greek sēpia cuttlefish The current senses date from the early 19th century.