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The planet Saturn photographed by the Cassini spacecraft on 6 October 2004. One of the meanings of the word saturnine is “pertaining to the astrological influence of the planet Saturn” (sense 4).

From Middle English saturnine, satournine, satournyne, saturnin, saturnyn, saturnyne (pertaining to or under the influence of the planet Saturn; line on the palm of the hand associated with Saturn),[1] borrowed from Old French saturnine, saturnin (modern French saturnin (of, pertaining to, resembling or containing lead, plumbic)), or directly from its etymon Medieval Latin Sāturnīnus, from Sāturnus (the Roman god Saturn; the planet Saturn) + -īnus (suffix meaning ‘of or pertaining to’); analysable as Saturn +‎ -ine. The English word is cognate with Italian saturnino (saturnine), Portuguese saturnino (melancholy, saturnine; pertaining to the planet Saturn), Spanish saturnino (melancholy, saturnine; pertaining to the planet Saturn).[2]

Sense 1 (“having a tendency to be cold, bitter, gloomy, etc.”) refers to the fact that individuals born under the astrological influence of the planet Saturn were believed to have that disposition.



saturnine (comparative more saturnine, superlative most saturnine)

  1. (comparable) Of a person: having a tendency to be cold, bitter, gloomy, sarcastic, and slow to change and react.
    Synonyms: dark, grim, sardonic; see also Thesaurus:cheerless
    Antonyms: cheerful, jovial; see also Thesaurus:happy
  2. (comparable) Of a setting: depressing, dull, gloomy.
    • 1652, Nich[olas] Culpeper, “Henbane”, in The English Physitian: Or An Astrologo-physical Discourse of the Vulgar Herbs of This Nation. [], London: Printed by Peter Cole, [], OCLC 863539962, page 67:
      All the Herbs which delight moſt to grow in Saturnine places, are Saturnine Herbs. But Henbane delights moſt to grow in Saturnine places, and whol Cart loads of it may be found neer the places where they empty the common Jakes, and ſcarce a ſtinking Ditch to be found without, it growing by it. Ergo 'tis an Herb of Saturn.
    • 1997, David Foster Wallace, “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again”, in A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments, Boston, Mass.: Little, Brown and Company, →ISBN:
      This saturnine line of thinking proceeds as the clouds overhead start to coalesce and the sky takes on its regular clothy P.M. weight.
    • 2019 January 28, Tom Dart, “US soccer’s Gregg Berhalter era starts with a win and the echo of empty seats”, in The Guardian[1], London: Guardian News & Media, ISSN 0261-3077, OCLC 229952407, archived from the original on 24 June 2019:
      It is not easy to kick off a new era with the requisite upbeat mood when the saturnine sight of a near-vacant arena evokes the apathy caused by past disappointments.
  3. (comparable, chemistry, archaic) Of, pertaining to, or containing lead (which was symbolically associated with the planet Saturn by alchemists).
    • 1772, John Aikin, “Section I. On Inflammations.”, in Observations on the External Use of Preparations of Lead, with Some General Remarks on Topical Medicines. [], 2nd corrected edition, London: Printed for Joseph Johnson, [], OCLC 931214701, part II, pages 44–45:
      The ſwelled teſticles frequently accompanying a gonorrhea will very well illuſtrate the effects of emollient, ſaturnine, and common aſtringent and ſtimulant topics. [...] Saturnine applications have been uſed in theſe caſes with great ſucceſs. I have ſeen that the ſaturnine water made pretty ſtrong, applied cold, and aſſiſted by proper poſture and bandage, remove the tumour and pain in a ſhort time, and duly continued, take away all hardneſs.
    • 1803, William Lambe, Researches into the Properties of Spring Water with Medical Cautions (Illustrated by Cases) against the Use of Lead in the Construction of Pumps, Water-pipes, Cisterns, &c., London: Sold by J[oseph] Johnson, [], OCLC 1049047070, pages 39–40:
      But the operation of lead on the ſyſtem is powerfully ſedative and debilitating, and directly adverſe to exuberant action. Hence in the moſt acute form of the ſaturnine diſeaſe, opium, (which is ſtrongly ſtimulant on the arterial ſyſtem) is adminiſtered, with ſafety and advantage, in quantites much larger than can be borne in moſt other diſeaſes; [...]
  4. (not comparable, pathology) Of a disease: caused by lead poisoning (saturnism); of a person: affected by lead poisoning.
    • 1875 August 16, “Renaut on Chronic Lead-poisoning”, in The London Medical Record: A Review of the Progress of the Medical Sciences and of Subjects Relating to Public Health, volume III, London: Smith, Elder & Co., [], OCLC 1000109343, page 503, column 1:
      The slow saturation of the animal economy by the metal renders the individual saturnine, and prepares in him a fresh ground, containing a reserve of lead, which, under the influence of accidental causes, may pass back in a notable quantity into the blood and bring on accidents analogous to those of acute poisoning or presenting special characteristics. The first effects of lead impregnation are, production of saturnine anæmia [...] acute or chronic saturnine asthma then come on; [...]
  5. (not comparable, astrology, obsolete) Pertaining to the astrological influence of the planet Saturn; having the characteristics of a person under such influence (see sense 1).
    • 1621, Democritus Junior [pseudonym; Robert Burton], “Starres a Cause. Signes from Physiognomy, Metoposcopy, Chiromancy.”, in The Anatomy of Melancholy, Oxford: Printed by Iohn Lichfield and Iames Short, for Henry Cripps, OCLC 216894069; The Anatomy of Melancholy: [], 2nd corrected and augmented edition, Oxford: Printed by John Lichfield and James Short, for Henry Cripps, 1624, OCLC 54573970, partition 1, section 2, member 1, subsection 4, page 51:
      Chiromancy hath theſe Aphoriſmes to foretell melancholy. [...] Tricaſſus, Corvinus, and others, in his book, thus hath it: The Saturnine line going from the Raſcetta through the hand, to Saturnes mount, and there interſected by certain little lines, argues melancholy: [...]
    • 1701, Ptolemy; Leo Allacius [i.e., Leo Allatius], “Of the Stars Northward of the Zodiack”, in John Whalley, transl., Ptolemy’s Quadripartite; or, Four Books Concerning the Influences of the Stars. Faithfully Render’d into English [], London: Printed for John Sprint, [], OCLC 731568598, book I, pages 20–21:
      The Bright Stars in the Dragon, are Saturnine and Martial. They of Cephas, Saturnine and Jovial. They of [the] Boots Mercurial and Saturnine.

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  1. feminine singular of saturnin



saturnine f pl

  1. feminine plural of saturnino