Medieval alchemists ascribed to the planet Saturn a gloomy and slow character. When people are called saturnine, it means they are like the planet — gloomy, mean, scowling. Not exactly the life of the party.

Saturnine is a word you don't hear often nowadays, though you probably know people with saturnine dispositions. The ultimate saturnine character in literature is Heathcliff — and for clarification's sake, that would be the bitter, brooding, obsessive hero of Wuthering Heights, not the lovably pudgy cat of comic-strip fame.

Definitions of saturnine
  1. adjective
    bitter or scornful
    “"the face was saturnine and swarthy, and the sensual lips...twisted with disdain"- Oscar Wilde”
    expressing or expressive of ridicule that wounds
  2. adjective
    showing a brooding ill humor
    “"a saturnine, almost misanthropic young genius"- Bruce Bliven”
    synonyms: dark, dour, glowering, glum, moody, morose, sour, sullen
    having an irritable and unpleasant disposition
Word Family