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

Photo: Xinhua/Zuma Press While the vote makes a no-deal exit much less likely, technically that outcome can’t yet be entirely ruled out. Ira Iosebashvili, WSJ, "Gold Gains as Investors Get Jitters Over Brexit Vote," 13 Mar. 2019 That’s likely another space where a collaboration would go over well. Nick Remsen, Vogue, "Overhauling Heritage (With an Edge of Clever Hype): A Conversation with Rimowa CEO Alexandre Arnault," 27 Feb. 2019 Taylor is most likely MIA due to her busy schedule filming Cats, the movie adaption of the famous musical. Carolyn Twersky, Seventeen, "Here's Why Taylor Swift Didn't Walk the Oscars Red Carpet with Her Boyfriend Joe Alwyn," 25 Feb. 2019 Less likely to win, according to bettors, are Willem Dafoe (At Eternity's Gate), Viggo Mortensen (Green Book), and Bradley Cooper (A Star Is Born). Kayla Keegan, Good Housekeeping, "See If Your 2019 Oscars Predictions Match Up With the Projected Winners," 23 Feb. 2019 Russia, under sanction for the occupation of the Crimea and other activities by NATO and the United States, is also likely having trouble sourcing parts. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "Russia to Receive First New 'Armata' Tanks in 2019," 13 Feb. 2019 Hormonal fluctuations, stress, and diet all likely play a roll as well. Katheryn Erickson, Glamour, "Adult Acne: The Unfair Reason You're Still Breaking Out in Your 20s and 30s," 19 Jan. 2019 Pulsars that emit radio signals will, most likely, swamp any dark matter signal. Chris Lee, Ars Technica, "Pulsars could convert dark matter into something we could see," 20 Dec. 2018 With such a crowded field, no candidate seems likely to come close to winning a majority of votes. Aaron M. Renn, WSJ, "A Mad Dash for City Hall in the Windy City," 22 Feb. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb

Top players like Davis, who will likely get his trade request fulfilled this summer are going to be well compensated one way or the other. Tim Reynolds, The Seattle Times, "Kareem: Players like Anthony Davis have value and hold power," 20 Feb. 2019 Because as many other cities have already learned, adding more e-bikes will likely get more people riding. Alissa Walker, Curbed, "How electric bikes can make cities safer," 30 Nov. 2018 Researchers have concluded that climate change very likely played a role in Harvey’s record-setting rainfall, for example. Scott K. Johnson, Ars Technica, "Houston’s cityscape squeezed extra rain out of Hurricane Harvey," 16 Nov. 2018 Idris Elba will likely play Macavity, the subject of Swift's song. Chloe Foussianes, Town & Country, "Everything We Know So Far About the New Cats Movie, Starring Taylor Swift and Judi Dench," 22 Oct. 2018 The dress—likely the exhibition's main draw—will go on display alongside the Greville Tiara, which Eugenie wore to her wedding, and Jack Brooksbank's morning suit. Chloe Foussianes, Town & Country, "Princess Eugenie's Wedding Dress Is Going on Display at Windsor Castle," 8 Feb. 2019 Using groundwater model results in combination with hydrologic datasets, Cuthbert and his team were able to create timescales showing how groundwater system would likely respond to climate change. David Grossman, Popular Mechanics, "Climate Change Could Turn Earth's Aquifers Into a Time Bomb," 22 Jan. 2019 The top three vote-getters would likely become the next school board members. Jackie Fielder, Teen Vogue, "Gabriela López Just Became the Youngest Elected Official in San Francisco," 11 Jan. 2019 Prosecutors would likely respond that by speaking broadly to the public instead of privately to Stone, Trump was trying to influence Stone in a manner that gave him plausible deniability. Sean Illing, Vox, "Did Trump commit witness tampering by tweet? I asked 9 legal experts.," 3 Dec. 2018

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

18 Mar 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).


of or relating to a parable or parabola

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