\ˈli-lē \
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

b : water lily

c : calla lily



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 \ adjective

Examples of lily in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Amid the displays of roses, lilies and sunflowers, in the middle of one bouquet, someone placed a single American flag. Theresa Vargas, Washington Post, "A Nepali immigrant brought his daughter to America for a better life. Then his own was taken.," 11 July 2018 Visitors can go inside the small greenhouse, where a display in late spring featured oriental lilies. Hattie Bernstein,, "Cool down this summer in these magical gardens," 5 July 2018 There are lilies and roses, mums, daisies, baby's breath. Maria L. La Ganga, idahostatesman, "Mother of 3-year-old slain in mass stabbing wants justice for daughter: "She is gone."," 3 July 2018 The small bed has a butterfly bush, which really does attract butterflies, and lilies and primroses are nestled around an angel statue in the center. Emma Austin, The Courier-Journal, "This idyllic English garden is hiding in plain sight in Old Louisville," 7 June 2018 The Bride's evening dress is designed by Stella McCartney and is a bespoke lily white high neck gown made of silk crepe. Leora Arnowitz, Fox News, "Meghan Markle, Prince Harry step out for evening reception with bride in slinky gown," 19 May 2018 Elle notes that the designer will be making 23 replicas of Markle’s reception dress in lily white, and 23 in onyx black., "Now You Can Buy A Replica Of Meghan Markle’s Reception Dress," 14 June 2018 Certainly poisonous plants, like certain types of lilies, daisies and azaleas, pose a much bigger threat than nontoxic plants, like roses, bamboo or baby’s breath. Michelle Higgins, sacbee, "Limit the impact that dogs, cats unleash on orderliness | The Sacramento Bee," 25 May 2018 Certainly poisonous plants, like certain types of lilies, daisies and azaleas, pose a much bigger threat than nontoxic plants, like roses, bamboo or baby’s breath. Michelle Higgins, sacbee, "Limit the impact that dogs, cats unleash on orderliness | The Sacramento Bee," 25 May 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

3 Oct 2018

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Time Traveler for lily

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

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English Language Learners Definition of lily

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


\ˈli-lē \
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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