Simple Definition of surly
: rude and unfriendly
Examples of surly
<went about his chores in a surly huff, totally annoyed that he was stuck at home on this beautiful Saturday>
<the surly receptionist told us we'd have to wait outside in the rain>
Origin of surly
alteration of Middle English serreli lordly, imperious, probably from sire, ser sire
First Known Use: 1523
Synonym Discussion of surly
SURLY Defined for Kids
History for surly
To a noble person it might seem natural to link together high birth and good manners, but the word surly is evidence that other people have not always thought this way. In Middle English the word was spelled sirly, which made more obvious its derivation from sir, the traditional title of respect. Sirly had much the same meaning as lordly does today, that is, “proud, haughty.” Although its meaning has evolved to “rude” or “unfriendly,” surly still refers to a way of acting that is quite the opposite of good-mannered.
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