like·​ly | \ ˈlī-klē How to pronounce likely (audio) \
likelier; likeliest

Definition of likely

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : having a high probability of occurring or being true : very probable rain is likely today
2 : apparently qualified : suitable a likely place
3 : reliable, credible a likely enough story
4 : promising a likely candidate
5 : attractive a likely child



Definition of likely (Entry 2 of 2)

: in all probability : probably those who seek power will most likely wind up exercising it— Halton Arp

Synonyms & Antonyms for likely

Synonyms: Adjective

Synonyms: Adverb

Antonyms: Adjective

Antonyms: Adverb

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Examples of likely in a Sentence

Adjective That seems to be the most likely explanation. This looks like a likely spot for a picnic. They regard him as a likely candidate for the job. Adverb He'll very likely be late. “Will it rain tomorrow?” “Most likely.”
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective But if regulators allow JetBlue’s acquisition of Spirit to go forward, there are also likely to be additional cost concerns. Alison Sider, WSJ, 2 Aug. 2022 The five-day isolation period reflects an approximation of when people are most likely to be infectious. Lena H. Sun, Joel Achenbach, Anchorage Daily News, 1 Aug. 2022 When citizens are left to rely on their families, their prospects are wildly unequal: The more money your relations have, the better off you’re likely to be. Stephanie H. Murray, The Atlantic, 1 Aug. 2022 And yet the true figure is likely to be even higher. GAO did not include the costs of the fifth extension of the student loan payment moratorium, which suspended loan payments between May and August 2022. Preston Cooper, Forbes, 1 Aug. 2022 Nationally, schools with more students of color are more likely to be closed, and those in affected communities often feel unfairly targeted. The Christian Science Monitor, 1 Aug. 2022 Any expansion beyond the 27 current EU members is likely to still be years off. Konstantin Testorides, ajc, 31 July 2022 Compared to gays and lesbians, bisexuals are also far less likely to be out to people in their lives, according to a 2019 Pew Research Center report. Claire Thornton, USA TODAY, 30 July 2022 Which teams are likely to be buyers and sellers as the deadline approaches, and which players are expected to change teams? David Faris, The Week, 29 July 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb Less than a week after Sue Bird took the floor for likely the final time in front of Connecticut fans, her former UConn backcourt mate and good friend Diana Taurasi heads to Mohegan Sun Arena for a pair of important games. Lila Bromberg, Hartford Courant, 1 Aug. 2022 Senior guard Kenneth Horsey can play tackle, but the Cats’ preference likely is for the emergence of two starters among Goodwin, redshirt freshman David Wohlabaugh, sophomore Deondre Buford and junior Jeremy Flax. Brett Dawson, The Courier-Journal, 1 Aug. 2022 Given those numbers, Paxlovid—or any other drug, for that matter—isn’t likely to provide much benefit. Rachel Gutman-wei, The Atlantic, 30 July 2022 Most spots dip into the 60s, with a range of about 65 to 70 likely. Ian Livingston, Washington Post, 30 July 2022 Not likely, given that San Diego occupies the country’s 27th media market according to Nielsen. Bryce Millercolumnist, San Diego Union-Tribune, 29 July 2022 He often was left holding the ball for what likely would have been coverage sacks. Jeff Miller, Los Angeles Times, 28 July 2022 There will likely, in each company and organization, be a decline in a sense of mission. Peggy Noonan, WSJ, 28 July 2022 Lance, speaking for the first time at training camp, handled such questions about his unsurprising promotion for likely the last time. Eric Branch, San Francisco Chronicle, 28 July 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'likely.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of likely


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


14th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for likely

Adjective and Adverb

Middle English, from Old English gelīclic fitting (from gelīc like) and Old Norse glīkligr, līkligr, from glīkr like; akin to Old English gelīc

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Time Traveler for likely

Time Traveler

The first known use of likely was in the 14th century

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Dictionary Entries Near likely




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Statistics for likely

Last Updated

5 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Likely.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 10 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for likely


like·​ly | \ ˈlī-klē How to pronounce likely (audio) \
likelier; likeliest

Kids Definition of likely

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : very possibly going to happen That glass is likely to fall.
2 : seeming to be the truth : believable That is the most likely explanation.
3 : giving hope of turning out well : promising They found a likely spot for a picnic.



Kids Definition of likely (Entry 2 of 2)

: without great doubt She will likely be elected class president.

More from Merriam-Webster on likely

Nglish: Translation of likely for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of likely for Arabic Speakers


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