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Somber vs. Sombre

This article is about the difference between Seize and Cease — enjoy your reading!

  Angbeen Chaudhary  —  Grammar Tips

Somber and somber are a pair or words that are opposite to homophones that is, they have different spellings but same meaning. The words like these with different spellings and same meaning causes equal confusion to writers as does the homophones because one can’t decide in the spur of the moment which is correct. This article explains about the real difference in these words which is something entirely different than their meanings. Keep reading!

Somber and Sombre are actually the same word which have two different spellings in the English language. They are both adapted to different regions where they are most commonly used but the truth is that both the spellings are correct and acceptable throughout the world.

For those of you who do not know the meaning of the word somber, we will explain it in the most simple and easiest way.

Somber as an adjective:

Somber is used as an adjective to describe nouns. The feeling of deep seriousness and sadness is termed as somber. She looked at him with a somber expression. The dark and dull tone of a thing is also referred to as somber. The sky is somber and starless tonight.

It is custom to wear somber clothes to a funeral.

The use of somber in English language can be dated back to the mid-18th century when the word originated from two Latin words sub ‘under’ and umbra ‘shade’. The original spellings were sombre, ending with e, but these spellings were modified when Americans decided to separate themselves from the rest of the English speaking world in around 1940.


The new spellings, somber, are used in American English and American writings to describe a dull tone or a sad feeling. If you belong to or reside in the USA, you must use these spellings as they are the only accepted spellings there.

Forgive the somber tones this week, but February is always a tough month for me.

(Wilkes Barre Times-Leader)


The original spellings, somber, are used in all the other countries and regions where English is the native tongue be it Great Britain, Ireland, Australia or Canada. The people or these countries must make use of these spellings in their writings.

Joy was met with sombre remembrance as 42 fresh faces entered the Toronto Police Service Thursday. (Toronto Sun)

Somber vs. Sombre:

All there is to know is that no spellings are incorrect or unacceptable. The only difference between the two words is in the region where they are used. If you live in America, you are bound to write somber, ending with r but, if you live anywhere else in the world you can use the original spellings, somber, and call yourself a preserver. Another thing to keep in mind is that once you decide which spellings to use, you have to stick to it in your writing meaning you cannot jump from one somber to another in the same article. The choice of the spellings is also dependent on your audience, i.e. if you are writing for American population, you must use the American spellings.

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