Intermediate+ Word of the Day: sole

sole (adjective, noun, verb) /soʊl/ LISTEN

As an adjective, sole means ‘only,’ ‘unique,’ or ‘exclusive,’ meaning that it pertains only to one individual or group to the exclusion of others. It also means ‘without company or companions.’ As a noun, the sole is the bottom surface of the foot or the corresponding under part of a shoe or other footwear. In golf, the sole is the part of the head of the club that touches the ground. The related verb to sole means ‘to furnish with a sole,’ as might be done with footwear.

  • George is my sole living relative.
  • The sole brilliance of the diamond dazzled everyone at the party.
  • The parking lot is for the sole use of the hotel's guests.
  • The rich old woman grew tired of the sole splendor of her life.
  • As he walked across the garden barefoot, a thorn pierced the sole of Neil's foot.
  • The sole of my shoe has a hole in it.
  • The golfer held her club so that the sole was just off the ground.
  • The shoemaker soled the shoes.

In pop culture

A sole survivor movie is a movie in which just one person is left alive in a given situation and that person has to use his or her own ingenuity, with no help from anyone else, to stay alive and get out of the situation. This video lists the top ten sole survivor movies:

Additional information

A sole is also a kind of edible flatfish with a hook-like snout, or any fish that resembles this one.

Did you know?

-sole- comes from Latin, where it has the meaning ‘only; alone.’ This meaning is found in such words as: desolate, desolation, sole, soliloquy, solipsism, solitaire, solitary, solitude, and solo.

Don't confuse it with

Don’t confuse sole with soul. They sound the same, but the soul is the principle of life, feeling, thought, and action in humans.


Sole, meaning ‘unique,’ ‘only’ or ‘exclusive,’ as well as ‘alone or without company,’ dates back to the mid-14th century. The Middle English soule or sole originally meant ‘alone,’ and came into English from the Old French sol (alone), which can be traced back to the Latin sōlus (alone), though the origin before then is uncertain. Some linguists speculate that it was a variation of the Latin adjective sollus (whole or complete) or pronoun se (oneself), from the Proto-Indo-European root swo- (so, in this way). It is related to the French seul (alone or only), the Spanish and Italian solo (alone), the Portuguese sozinho (alone or lonely) and (sole, only or alone), along with many other Romance language equivalents. It is also related to the English words so, also, whatsoever, such and sullen, as well as many words that include the –sole-, as mentioned above in “Did you know?”. Sole, meaning ‘the bottom of the foot,’ dates back to the late 13th or early 14th century. The word came into English from the Old French sole, which can be traced back to the Late Latin sola, from the Latin solea (bottom of a shoe, sandal, or flatfish), from solum (‘bottom,’ ‘ground,’ ‘foundation’ or ‘the lowest point of something’). Its origin before then is uncertain, but some linguists think it came from the Proto-Indo-European root swol– (sole). Sole is related to the Dutch zool (sole or tread), the German Sohle (‘sole or insole,’ as well as ‘bottom or floor’), the Danish sål (sole), the Italian suola (sole), the Spanish suela (sole) and suelo (ground) and the Portuguese sola (sole), as well as the English word soil. Though the sense existed in Latin, sole was not used to mean ‘the bottom of a shoe’ in English until the late 14th century. The verb, meaning ‘to furnish with a sole,’ dates back to the mid-16th century, and came from the noun. Sole, meaning flatfish, has been used in English since the mid-13th century, and came from the same Latin origin as the previous sense.

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