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

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms & Antonyms for likely

Synonyms: Adjective


Synonyms: Adverb

assumably, doubtless, presumably, probably

Antonyms: Adjective

doubtful, dubious, improbable, questionable, unlikely

Antonyms: Adverb


Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Examples of likely in a Sentence


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.


He'll very likely be late. “Will it rain tomorrow?” “Most likely.”
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Nearly 3,000 children were separated from their families under the zero-tolerance policy, and thousands more were likely separated before the official policy was formally announced. Glamour, "Untold Numbers of Mothers Separated From Their Children Will Spend Mother’s Day Alone," 10 May 2019 Food deserts are also more likely to be found in communities with a high percentage of people of color. Jessica Booth, Redbook, "Everything You Need To Know About Food Deserts," 29 Apr. 2019 During the second episode of Season 8, the characters gathered in Winterfell prepared for the showdown and all pretty much agreed that death seemed likely. Kayleigh Roberts, Marie Claire, "'Game of Thrones' Fan Theory Suggests Dead Starks Will Fight Against the Night King in Battle of Winterfell," 27 Apr. 2019 Three days before her sudden conversion, Johnson had been given a poor performance review and seemed likely to be fired. Jennifer Wright, Harper's BAZAAR, "Why the Abortion Movie Unplanned Is Factually Incorrect," 16 Apr. 2019 Neither Lowe nor Meadows seemed likely to lose any sleep over which ball went farther. Ian Harrison, The Seattle Times, "Cheap seats: Meadows, Lowe go way deep as Rays beat Jays," 12 Apr. 2019 Anyone who loves camper vans is likely not looking for a ton of space; even the largest of vans won’t have the square footage of a giant Class A RV. Megan Barber, Curbed, "Camper van with skylights lives large in 100 square feet," 17 Dec. 2018 But a new analysis from CoreLogic Inc. suggests most of the current flips are less risky than those more than a decade ago, making today’s flippers less likely to cause market volatility if prices decline in the next few years. Laura Kusisto, WSJ, "House Flipping Is Back to Pre-Crisis Levels. Here’s Why It’s Less of a Concern.," 9 Apr. 2019 Winter says the flatter the finish, the better—and the less likely your eye will pick those blemishes in the ceiling up. Elizabeth Gulino, House Beautiful, "Everything You've Ever Needed to Know About Painting Your Ceilings," 15 Mar. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb

Still, after the closing of TMI, the U.S. will likely be the largest producer of nuclear power in the world. David Grossman, Popular Mechanics, "Three Mile Island Is Closing in September," 9 May 2019 If their excitement for this year's Met Gala is any indication, there will likely be many more to come. Claire Dodson, Teen Vogue, "Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth Attended Their First Met Gala as a Couple," 7 May 2019 Also, if your bra is fitting you correctly, pulling it around your body would likely be uncomfortable. Kelsey Stiegman, Seventeen, "Don't Panic, But You've Been Wearing Your Bra Wrong Your Entire Life," 25 Apr. 2019 In the fold While the Galaxy S10 will be the bigger seller, the star of the show will likely be the folding phone that Samsung teased at its developer conference in November. Michael Simon, PCWorld, "Samsung’s Galaxy S10 will launch on Feb 20, and we only have one question: Will it fold?," 10 Jan. 2019 The judge ruled today in favor of releasing Meng on bail mainly after determining she likely wouldn’t be a flight risk. Shannon Liao, The Verge, "Huawei’s CFO is granted bail by Canadian court but will be closely monitored," 11 Dec. 2018 While shifts in globalization and manufacturing have already caused significant economic displacement, upcoming changes in tech will likely be an even bigger driver of growth and disruption going forward. Patrick Sisson, Curbed, "When towns lose a factory, what comes next?," 29 Nov. 2018 Despite all the chatter, NWSL President Amanda Duffy previously indicated the league likely won’t make any expansion announcements until after this season. Anne M. Peterson, The Seattle Times, "NWSL’s 7th season opens, looks for bump in World Cup year," 13 Apr. 2019 Without pubic hair, or with excessive grooming, that buffer is lost and would likely make wearing denim panties a bit uncomfortable. Brooke Bobb, Vogue, "Denim Underwear Is a Thing—One New York Ob-Gyn Weighs In on Going Commando," 1 Apr. 2019

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about likely

Statistics for likely

Last Updated

13 May 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for likely

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for likely



English Language Learners Definition of likely

 (Entry 1 of 2)

used to indicate the chance that something will happen
: seeming to be true
: seeming to be right or suited for a purpose



English Language Learners Definition of likely (Entry 2 of 2)

: without much doubt


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.

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on likely

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for likely

Spanish Central: Translation of likely

Nglish: Translation of likely for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of likely for Arabic Speakers

Comments on likely

What made you want to look up likely? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


one that collects or salvages junk

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Time Traveler Quiz: Which Word Came First?

  • time traveler quiz which word came first
  • Which came first?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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