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

Lately, those piles have also likely included low-value plastics that can’t be sold on secondary markets, like clamshell containers or plastics marked No. 3 through No. 7, which includes yogurt containers and buckets. Devin Kelly, Anchorage Daily News, "How recycling works in Anchorage: Most of it ends up in the Lower 48," 7 June 2019 That’s not likely, at least in the first years, said Kevin Rogers, executive vice president with the Arizona Cotton Growers Association. Washington Post, "State, federal laws now allow Arizona farmers to grow hemp," 7 June 2019 Or, more likely, what had been the depth of her disappointment? David Margolick, The New Yorker, "The Campaign Volunteer Whose Brilliance Haunted Robert F. Kennedy," 7 June 2019 The former Avalanche forward who wanted out of Colorado won’t likely return to his original team, which benefitted greatly in multiple ways after he was traded to Ottawa on Nov. 5, 2017. Mike Chambers, The Denver Post, "Avalanche in free agency: A deeper look into the top available scoring forwards," 6 June 2019 Bullpen reinforcements will, most likely, be on the way as the trade deadline approaches. Betsy Helfand, Twin Cities, "Bullpen gives up four as Twins fall to Indians," 6 June 2019 More likely, shareholders fret that American authorities could force the firms to change their money-spinning business models. The Economist, "American trustbusters are rattling Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple," 6 June 2019 Young talents leaving South America are typically more likely to land in Spain or Portugal first, where there is less of a culture shock and no language barrier., "River Plate Star Exequiel Palacios Claims Arsenal, Real Madrid Are 'Interested' in Him," 6 June 2019 These fish reached adulthood either through rare natural reproduction in the lake or, more likely, were stocked catfish that lived long enough to become adults. Shannon Tompkins,, "Fish in a barrel, or how to spawn cats in a small lake," 6 June 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb

The Test of the Champion.’ Intrepid Heart will most likely be second to Joevia (post 1) through the early stages before taking charge heading into the far turn., "Clancy’s Call of the Belmont Stakes," 7 June 2019 That progress will likely lead to a bigger role for McCreary come fall, even in a veteran-laden secondary. Tom Green |,, "Roger McCreary positioning himself to have ‘impact’ in Auburn secondary this fall," 7 June 2019 In other circumstances, the fan would have most likely been escorted out of the Oracle Arena and that would have been that. Rex Crum, The Denver Post, "Who is Mark Stevens, the guy who shoved Kyle Lowry?," 6 June 2019 So a doubleheader would most likely have to align with an event already on its calendar. Jim Ayello, Indianapolis Star, "Mark Miles: IndyCar-NASCAR doubleheader a ‘longshot’," 6 June 2019 Orlando Magic: Tyler Herro, SG, Kentucky Sharpshooters Terrance Ross and Nikola Vucevic will be free agents this summer and the Magic will likely have a need at the position., "NBA mock draft 2019: Zion Williamson No. 1; Trail Blazers add a scoring forward, Oregon Ducks’ Bol Bol a lottery pick," 6 June 2019 The list has 31 streets, but only the first eight to 10 will likely to get done, Robertson said. Erika Butler,, "Aberdeen to spend $1 million on road projects in next fiscal year," 5 June 2019 The two sides would most likely meet in the middle, meaning a massive expansion of Medicare. Flaviu Simihaian, Fortune, "Private Insurers Are Afraid of Medicare for All. They Should Be Excited," 5 June 2019 The New York Times reported Tuesday that Manafort is expected to be transferred to Rikers Island in New York within a few weeks, where he will most likely be held in isolation, multiple sources said. NBC News, "AOC gets it wrong in tweet about Manafort 'solitary confinement'," 5 June 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

10 Jun 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).


to move with exaggerated bouncy motions

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