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See also: Sleeper


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  • Rhymes: -iːpə(ɹ)

Etymology 1[edit]

sleep +‎ -er


sleeper (plural sleepers)

  1. Someone who sleeps.
    I'm a light sleeper: I get woken up by the smallest of sounds.
    She's a heavy sleeper: it takes a lot to wake her up.
  2. That which lies dormant, as a law.
    • 1625, Francis [Bacon], “Of Judicature”, in The Essayes [], 3rd edition, London: [] Iohn Haviland for Hanna Barret, →OCLC:
      Therefore let penal laws, if they have been sleepers of long, or if they be grown unfit for the present time, be by wise judged confined in the execution []
    • 1958, Duncan Leroy Kennedy, Bill drafting, page 12:
      The object of these provisions is to prevent insertion of "jokers" or "sleepers" in bills and securing passage under the false color of the title.
    • 1984, 20:05 from the start, in Dune[1] (Science Fiction), →OCLC:
      I'll miss the sea. But a person needs new experiences. They draw something deep inside, allowing him to grow. Without change, something sleeps inside us and seldom awakens. The sleeper must awaken.
  3. A spy, saboteur, or terrorist who lives unobtrusively in a community until activated by a prearranged signal; may be part of a sleeper cell.
    • 1969, United States Congress, Departments of Treasury and Post Office and Executive Office Appropriations for 1970: Hearings, (91st Congress, First Session, parts 2-3), page 479:
      We are up against the pros; and pros who have been involved in this kind of activity for many years. [] The public apathy today is disturbing — few realize, Mr. Chairman, that there are sleepers in this country and we know that they are able to manipulate at will behind the scenes.
  4. A small starter earring, worn to prevent a piercing from closing.
  5. A railway sleeping car.
    We spent a night on an uncomfortable sleeper between Athens and Vienna.
    • 1944 November and December, “"Duplex Roomette" Sleeping Cars”, in Railway Magazine, page 324:
      It is realised that the old Pullman standard sleeper, with its convertible "sections", each containing upper and lower berths, and with no greater privacy at night than the curtains drawn along both sides of a middle aisle, has had its day.
  6. (martial arts, wrestling) A sleeper hold.
  7. Something that achieves unexpected success after an interval of time.
    Synonym: sleeper hit
    A box-office bomb when it first came out, the film was a sleeper, becoming much more popular decades after being released.
    • 1968, Marvin B. Scott, The Racing Game, page 160:
      For example, the [racehorse] trainer may have tipped a betting syndicate that he is about to unleash a sleeper []
  8. A goby-like bottom-feeding freshwater fish of the family Odontobutidae.
  9. A nurse shark (family Ginglymostomatidae).
  10. A type of pajama for a person, especially a child, that covers the whole body, including the feet.
    Aaron, Devin, and Laura looked so comfy in their sleepers.
  11. (slang) An automobile which has been internally modified to excess, while retaining a mostly stock appearance in order to fool opponents in a drag race, or to avoid the attention of the police.
    Antonyms: cop magnet, rice burner, racecar
  12. (slang) A sedative.
    • 1995, “Insomnia”, in Reverence, performed by Faithless:
      At least a couple of weeks since I last slept, / Kept takin' sleepers, but now I keep myself pepped.
  13. (slang, gambling) A bet placed on the gambling table and then forgotten about by the gambler.
  14. (science fiction) A pod or similar device containing a person in cryosleep.
Coordinate terms[edit]
Derived terms[edit]


sleeper (third-person singular simple present sleepers, present participle sleepering, simple past and past participle sleepered)

  1. (rare) To mark a calf by cutting its ear.
    • 1963, Jack Schaefer, Monte Walsh, page 81:
      I expect there ain't a trick to maverickin' and sleeperin' and changin' a brand he don't know.

Etymology 2[edit]

The short wooden bars are sleepers, and the long metal bars are rails.

Compare Norwegian sleip (a sleeper (a timber); as adjective, slippery, smooth). See slape.


sleeper (plural sleepers)

  1. (rail transport, Britain) A railroad tie.
    Synonym: (US) tie
    • 1901, George Gipps, The Fighting in North China (up to the Fall of Tientsin City), Shanghai: Kelly and Walsh, →OL, page 40:
      The train, minus the three abandoned trucks, again proceeded at a slow pace, with a pump trolley doing pilot ahead ; this was very necessary as a great many sleepers were found to have been burnt underneath the fishplates.
    • 1961 July, Cecil J. Allen, “Locomotive Running Past and Present”, in Trains Illustrated, page 401:
      I should imagine that the smooth riding and the quietness of the diesel or electric cab, coupled with the effect on the eyes of endless successions of sleepers disappearing from sight immediately under the driver's eyes, might in time have a soporific effect, so that the company of a second man, who can assist in signal observations when he is not at work in the engine cab, seems highly desirable in such conditions.
  2. (carpentry) A structural beam in a floor running perpendicular to both the joists beneath and floorboards above.
  3. (nautical) A heavy floor timber in a ship's bottom.
  4. (nautical) The lowest, or bottom, tier of casks.
Derived terms[edit]