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

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.”
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Israel could decide to annex a large swathe of territory or annex nothing at all, or—as seems likely—do something betwixt the two. The Economist, "Into darkness Israel weighs the future of the West Bank," 27 June 2020 Williams' driver's license photo was wrongly flagged as a likely match to surveillance video at the store, the American Civil Liberties Union said. Ed White, Detroit Free Press, "Detroit says 'shoddy' work led to wrongful arrest tied to facial recognition technology," 26 June 2020 The 6-foot-3 Davison capped his junior season with what likely is the year’s most defining moment. Ben Thomas |, al, "Auburn, Alabama make the Top 10 for Mr. Basketball J.D. Davison," 26 June 2020 The bill's likely passage in the House will mark the first time a Washington statehood bill would pass in either chamber of Congress. Nicholas Wu, USA TODAY, "House to vote on making DC the 51st state, but GOP opposition means bill unlikely to advance further," 26 June 2020 For example: Jordan Lyles, the likely No. 5 starter, has more than 100 relief appearances in the majors. Dallas News, "5 key issues Rangers need to address in spring training 2.0," 25 June 2020 Overnight showers and thunderstorms likely, mainly before 9 p.m. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 70. Sarah Brookbank, The Enquirer, "Cincinnati weather: Highs above 90 on Friday, storms in the forecast this weekend," 25 June 2020 Biden, President Barack Obama's vice president for two terms after 36 years as a Delaware senator, then previewed a likely message for the fall campaign. Joseph Simonson, Washington Examiner, "Biden ventures out of basement for first time in over a week," 25 June 2020 The thermometer hit a likely record of 38 degrees Celsius (100.4 degrees Fahrenheit) in the Russian Arctic town of Verkhoyansk on Saturday, a temperature that would be a fever for a person — but this is Siberia, known for being frozen. Daria Litvinova, Fox News, "The Arctic is on fire: Siberian heat wave alarms scientists," 25 June 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb Yet past experience shows that Covid-19 vaccine trials will likely have challenges meeting enrollment targets like these. Kathryn Stephenson, STAT, "Covid-19 vaccine research must involve Black and Latinx participants. Here are 4 ways to make that happen," 26 June 2020 The latter is likely have a mix of comorbidities and will require a different approach both during the procedure and post-procedure rehabilitation. Mohammed Saeed, Quartz, "Why AI is the next way patients will choose their doctors," 26 June 2020 The petition likely won’t have much traction at Cleveland City Council. Kaylee Remington, cleveland, "Petition asks Cleveland City Council to replace Christopher Columbus statue with Chef Boyardee," 26 June 2020 But for super-sized companies like Alibaba, with a market cap of $603 billion in the U.S., privatization would be a more cumbersome strategy since the firm would likely have to announce a buyback scheme. Lucinda Shen, Fortune, "The U.S. clampdown on Chinese companies is an unexpected windfall for Hong Kong," 26 June 2020 However, dust will likely have some impact on the surrounding states, including Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee and the Carolinas Friday. Judson Jones, CNN, "Saharan dust arrives in the US," 26 June 2020 This message likely has a friendly ear in many parents, especially those who have been Zooming into meetings while chasing after toddlers. Olga Khazan, The Atlantic, "The Scientists Who Want Kids Back in School," 25 June 2020 One thing your home workout situation likely doesn’t have? Courtney Thompson, CNN Underscored, "20 must-have accessories for anyone with a Peloton," 25 June 2020 Facebook and Google will likely have a lot more government heat to contend with. Justin Sherman, Wired, "The US-China Battle Over the Internet Goes Under the Sea," 24 June 2020

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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Time Traveler for likely

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for likely

Last Updated

29 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Likely.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for likely


How to pronounce likely (audio)

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

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