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

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Synonyms & Antonyms for likely

Synonyms: Adjective


Synonyms: Adverb

assumably, doubtless, presumably, probably

Antonyms: Adjective

doubtful, dubious, improbable, questionable, unlikely

Antonyms: Adverb


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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.”
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

The most likely cause of social breakdown is water, or rather the lack of it. The Economist, "Pyramid scheme," 6 July 2019 Egyptian authorities said that the statue was likely stolen during the 1970s from the Karnak temple in the Egyptian city of Luxor, near the tomb of the boy king in the Valley of the Kings. Washington Post, "Statue of King Tut, which Egypt claims was stolen, sells for $6 million despite outcry," 6 July 2019 The first voice Frost Bank callers heard in the 1940s belonged to Audichron voice talent Mary Moore, though most callers likely remember the firm-but-friendly voice of Jane Barbe, who first recorded for Audichron and Frost in 1963. René A. Guzman,, "‘Frost Bank time’ keeps on ticking after almost 80 years," 5 July 2019 SK Kim, an analyst with brokerage firm Daiwa Capital Markets, said Huawei likely helped memory chip sales in the second quarter as the company was stockpiling supplies. Sherisse Pham, CNN, "Samsung warns of profit slump as memory chips and smartphones struggle," 5 July 2019 The rulings mark a major development in what’s likely to be an ongoing legal fight to unlock as much as $500 million in annual tax revenues in San Francisco. Dominic Fracassa,, "Judge says SF correct in passing two tax measures on simple majority vote," 5 July 2019 The Prince George’s girl, now 4-and-a-half years old, likely won’t say much more, according to the family’s attorney. Meredith Cohn,, "Baltimore jury's record $229 million malpractice verdict may change a life — but likely not the system," 4 July 2019 That will more than likely be Equanimeous St. Brown. The Si Staff,, "Scout’s Take: Insider Fantasy Football Analysis for Every NFL Team," 4 July 2019 However, 2018 levels of vaping have exceeded 2011 levels of smoking, most likely due to vaping’s relative safety and the faddish nature of e-cigarettes. James P. Sutton, National Review, "San Francisco’s Vaping Ban Threatens to Push Teens Back Toward Cigarettes," 4 July 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb

What to expect this weekend: Independence Day: Showers and thunderstorms likely, mainly after 4 p.m. Partly sunny, with a high near 87. Sarah Brookbank,, "Cincinnati weather: When to expect rain on the Fourth of July," 4 July 2019 The only problem is that using concrete as a cooking surface, even in the highest of summer temperatures, is likely an impossible task. Emily Toomey, Smithsonian, "Attempting to Fry an Egg on the Sidewalk Has Been a Summer Pastime for Over 100 Years," 4 July 2019 Here are the players who are most likely to try and step into the void that Messi's departure from the international the game would definitely leave behind., "4 Argentina Players Who Could Replace Lionel Messi at International Level," 3 July 2019 After a Google search found that the creature was most likely a New Guinea Flatworm, Ganucheau reached out to the Texas Invasive Species Institute, who confirmed the identification. Helen Murphy,, "Straight Out of Stranger Things! Texas Woman Finds ‘Black, Slimy’ Parasitic Worm in Backyard," 3 July 2019 The transportation group will likely be a point of emphasis. Dylan Mcguinness,, "Mayor Nirenberg names committees for new San Antonio City Council," 3 July 2019 So the Derby City was likely a good stopping point on his way up to the Summit City. Billy Kobin, The Courier-Journal, "'Weird Al' pops up at a Louisville Bats baseball game," 2 July 2019 While The Peach Truck grows more than 40 varieties of peaches, freestone peaches are picked in mid-June until the end of the season and will likely be what is on the truck. Chris Sims, Indianapolis Star, "The Peach Truck is coming to Indianapolis. Here's when it's scheduled to stop near you," 2 July 2019 Tuesday will likely be dry, but another weak storm system will slowly move through North Texas on Wednesday and Thursday. Dallas News, "NBC 5 Forecast: Sunny and Hot, Low Storm Chances," 2 July 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.

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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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Statistics for likely

Last Updated

8 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for likely

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

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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.

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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).


characterized by aphorism

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