chiefly Scotland
: awry, wrong
the best-laid schemes o' mice an' men gang aft agley Robert Burns

Word History


Scots agley, aglee "obliquely, askance, awry," from a- a- entry 1 + gley, glee "to squint, look askance," going back to Old Scots gley (in the participle gleyit "squinting") & Middle English (north, northwest Midlands) glien, gleen, gleien "to be squint-eyed, glance, glisten," of uncertain origin

Note: Middle English gleien has been compared with Old Norse gljá "to shine, glisten," though this latter meaning is only attested once for gleien and scarcely seems to account for the "squint" sense. Initial gl- in Germanic languages in any case appears to have had phonesthemic value, perhaps suggesting both movement of the eyes and radiation of light. Gleien may hence be an entirely new formation.

First Known Use

1785, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of agley was in 1785

Dictionary Entries Near agley

Cite this Entry

“Agley.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 9 Dec. 2022.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!

Commonly Confused Words Quiz

  • vector image of a face with thought expression
  • I went to the ______ store to buy a birthday card.
Spell It

Hear a word and type it out. How many can you get right?

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.