Dour is an adjective that describes a person or a situation as being severe, stern, and unfriendly. It can also refer to something that is bleak or gloomy in nature.


US English

UK English

Part of speech



grim, unsmiling, humorless, sour, morose, austere, sullen, stern, glum, forbidding


cheerful, happy, jovial, joyful, sunny

Example sentences

  • The manager’s dour expression intimidated the employees and made them hesitant to approach him.
  • She felt discouraged by the dour mood of the office.
  • Despite her mother’s attempts to cheer her up, Sarah remained dour and unsmiling throughout the family vacation.
  • The storm clouds gathered on the horizon, casting a dour pall over the landscape.
  • The novel’s protagonist was a dour and brooding figure, haunted by his tragic past and unable to find joy in life.


The word “dour” comes from the Middle English word “dure” meaning “severe” or “hard”. It shares a root with the French word “dur” and the Latin word “durum”, both of which mean “hard” or “difficult”. The suffix “-ish” can be added to “dour” to create “dourish”, which means somewhat dour or having a slightly gloomy or unsmiling disposition.

“Dour” is often used to describe people who have a serious or stern demeanor, and who do not show much emotion or humor. For example, a person may be described as “dour” if they rarely smile, speak in a monotonous tone, and seem generally unapproachable. Similarly, a situation can be described as “dour” if it is gloomy, depressing, or lacking in hope. For instance, a rainy and cloudy day may be described as “dour” due to its bleak and uninviting atmosphere.

Prefixes can be added to “dour” to change its meaning. For example, the prefix “un-” can be added to create the word “undour”, which means not dour or lacking in severity or gloominess. Similarly, the prefix “ill-” can be added to create “ill-dour”, which means extremely gloomy or depressing.

Overall, “dour” is a useful word for describing people or situations that are serious, severe, and lacking in warmth or humor. It is often used to convey a sense of negativity or bleakness, and can be modified with prefixes and suffixes to create related words with slightly different meanings.