\ ˈli-lē How to pronounce lily (audio) \
plural lilies

Definition of lily

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : any of a genus (Lilium of the family Liliaceae, the lily family) of erect perennial leafy-stemmed bulbous herbs that are native to the temperate northern hemisphere and are widely cultivated for their showy flowers broadly : any of various plants of the lily family or of the related amaryllis or iris families
2 : any of various plants with showy flowers: such as
a : a scarlet anemone (Anemone coronaria) of the Mediterranean region



Definition of lily (Entry 2 of 2)

: resembling a lily in fairness, purity, or fragility my lady's lily hand— John Keats

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Other Words from lily


lily-like or lilylike \ ˈli-​lē-​ˌlīk How to pronounce lilylike (audio) \ adjective

Examples of lily in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

When the pair met, Boden told Neal that his words inspired her to make a quilt with white lilies, to symbolize new life. CBS News, "Woman meets "guardian angel" who donated liver. It wasn't the first organ he'd given away.," 1 July 2019 Brooklyn felt transformed with Caroline Cuse’s stunning floral centerpieces of birds of paradise, torch lilies, papyrus, and lemons. Zachary Schwartz, Vogue, "Prabal Gurung Celebrated New York Pride With a Gorgeous Garden Party in Brooklyn," 27 June 2019 Visitors today can find bright-red kniphofia, yellow medicago, ginger lilies, lavender and rosemary, among other foliage. Brigit Katz, Smithsonian, "Calling All Green Thumbs! A Legendary British Island Is Looking to Hire a Resident Gardener," 5 June 2019 For the past century or more, gardeners have wanted to grow plants that were decidedly exotic and spectacularly different; the list includes non-native versions of roses, azaleas, hostas and lilies, for example. Adrian Higgins, Washington Post, "This unusual garden style could be a sustainable solution for urban landscapes," 5 June 2019 The agave plant actually belongs to the Agavoideae family, which is a succulent closely related to the lily plant. Lauren Hubbard, Town & Country, "12 Things Every Tequila Aficionado Needs to Know," 7 June 2019 Tidy boxwood hedging outlines the spring display and provides a framework for later waves of allium and lilies that bloom companionably among the roses, valerian, yarrow and other summer perennials in the small but striking space. Lorene Edwards Forkner, The Seattle Times, "Richard Hartlage composes kaleidoscopic landscapes of bulbs — for Chihuly Garden and Glass, and his home," 13 Apr. 2019 Round out spring cleaning with Diptyque's latest candle duo: Narguilé has a spicy intoxicating scent while Lys will fill the room with visions of fresh cut lilies—burn them simultaneously for a surprising yet delightful treat. Jenna Rennert, Vogue, "10 New Game-Changing Beauty Products to Invest in This Spring," 26 Mar. 2019 Balancing the grand piano and the guitars held aloft in their stands were an orange velvet couch, a side table with a vase of white callas lilies, and an easy chair half covered in a throw. Chloe Schama, Vogue, "Patti Smith Stuns With “Words and Music” at New York’s Minetta Lane Theater," 24 Sep. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

But for the more immediate future, the ability to compete in lily-white districts (presumably without sacrificing any basic progressive commitments) could definitely help Democrats win and maintain a House majority. Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, "Lamb Win Could Point to Democratic Resurgence in Lily-white Districts," 14 Mar. 2018 While this year’s list of Golden Globes nominees isn’t as lily-white as, say, the Oscars typically are, the slate is still lacking inclusivity; out of 30 acting nominees in the film categories, just five are not white. Yohana Desta, HWD, "Why Were Tiffany Haddish and Girls Trip Shut Out of the Golden Globes?," 11 Dec. 2017 Yams are a starchy edible root that is a relative of the lily family. Terri Milligan, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Is it a yam or a sweet potato?," 24 Sep. 2017 But every happy family in the kitschy illustrations is lily-white, signaling a restrictive environment, even if it's not declared as such. David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Suburbicon': Film Review | Venice 2017," 2 Sep. 2017 The small, lily-white, conservative rural school into which Alexie transferred as a boy became his haven. Laura Miller, Slate Magazine, "Sherman Alexie’s terrific book is the latest entry in a burgeoning genre: memoirs of moms.," 23 June 2017 The leaves resemble little lily pads popping up on stems like something out of Wonderland. Kenneth Setzer,, "Fairchild's Tropical Garden Column: What’s that weed? Meet marsh pennywort," 4 Aug. 2017 The recipe calls for millet and barley, as well as yam, lily root, and traces of Job's tears, a type of grass native to Southeast Asia. Avery Thompson, Popular Mechanics, "Stanford Students Brew Beer from 5000-Year-Old Recipe," 8 Feb. 2017 Other plants that should work include creeping lily turf, pachysandra and yellow archangel. Tim Johnson,, "What's the best grass, ground cover for shady lawns?," 5 June 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'lily.' 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 lily


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


15th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for lily


Middle English lilie, from Old English, from Latin lilium

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Statistics for lily

Last Updated

11 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for lily

The first known use of lily was before the 12th century

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More Definitions for lily



English Language Learners Definition of lily

: a type of plant that has large white or colorful bell-shaped flowers also : the flower


\ ˈli-lē How to pronounce lily (audio) \
plural lilies

Kids Definition of lily

: a plant (as the Easter lily or the tiger lily ) that grows from a bulb and has a leafy stem and showy funnel-shaped flowers

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More from Merriam-Webster on lily

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with lily

Spanish Central: Translation of lily

Nglish: Translation of lily for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of lily for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about lily

Comments on lily

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