cloy·​ing ˈklȯi-iŋ How to pronounce cloying (audio)
: disgusting or distasteful by reason of excess
cloying sweetness
also : excessively sweet or sentimental
a cloying romantic comedy
Her coyness grows cloying after a while … Elysa Gardner
cloyingly adverb

Did you know?

We won’t bore you with the sappy tale behind the word cloying, because happily, there isn’t one. That’s because its history isn’t sweet, but rather tough as nails. Cloying comes from the verb cloy, which had among its earliest uses the meaning (to quote the Oxford English Dictionary) “to render [a gun] useless by driving a spike or plug into the touch-hole.” This ultra-specific sense of clogging and stuffing arose alongside both broader and figurative ones, including “to fill or choke up,” and cloy has since come to mean “to supply or indulge to excess.” Accordingly, cloying implies a nauseating amount of something that might be pleasing in smaller doses, especially both literal and metaphorical sweetness.

Example Sentences

After a while, the softness of his voice becomes cloying. the cloying sentiments of so many Mother's Day cards
Recent Examples on the Web The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning is certainly fun, and perhaps even occasionally cloying. Chris Vognar, Rolling Stone, 29 Apr. 2023 With an unfocused plot, poorly done special effects and cloying sentimentality, this is a ghastly concoction of questionable taste. Staff, Dallas News, 27 Apr. 2023 By themselves, any one of these stories — a woman suffering from Parkinson’s who loves to sing, an older gentleman who struggles when finding a lifelong partner, a mother grieving the loss of her baby daughter — could have seemed all too cloying on their own. Manuel Betancourt, Variety, 13 Apr. 2022 One thing Armstrong was not, however, was cutesy, cloying, or sparing about the difficulties of parenting. Ej Dickson, Rolling Stone, 10 May 2023 There was a sophisticated twist on each that kept them from being cloying. Mara Severin | Eating Out, Anchorage Daily News, 6 Apr. 2023 The Chocolate tastes cloying and synthetic. Li Goldstein, Bon Appétit, 23 Sep. 2022 The tangy flavor helps offset the sugar and sweetness of custard, so that instead of becoming cloying or heavy, the colorful pie practically sings with flavor. Torie Cox, Country Living, 27 Feb. 2023 Eating to Extinction is a travelogue infused with reverence for the sheer variety of foods found on this planet that is somehow never precious or cloying. Kate Knibbs, WIRED, 26 Dec. 2022 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'cloying.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


see cloy

First Known Use

1594, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of cloying was in 1594


Dictionary Entries Near cloying

Cite this Entry

“Cloying.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Jun. 2023.

More from Merriam-Webster on cloying

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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