\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

These plants--clockwise from top left, a spider plant, peace lily, pothos vine and Swiss cheese plant--need limited maintenance and are perfect for beginner indoor growers. Heidi Mitchell, WSJ, "Which Houseplants Grow Best in Low Light?," 10 Nov. 2018 There are flowers that do not frame well, including lilies, dahlias, and orchids. Michaela Bechler, Vogue, "This “Flower Framer” Will Preserve a Meaningful Bouquet Forever," 8 Oct. 2018 Standard Hollywood-style gilding of the lily, in other words. Soren Andersen, The Seattle Times, "‘Operation Finale’: Evil speaks in well-made Nazi drama," 28 Aug. 2018 Three-quarters of the world’s Bruegel paintings under one roof would be more than enough for a blockbuster, but the curators have gilded the lily by adding nearly half of the master’s surviving drawings and prints. J.s. Marcus, WSJ, "Strange and Stirring Bruegel," 7 Sep. 2018 Deer Pond, located at the southern end of the preserve, is very scenic with lilies floating in the water and dragonflies daintily hanging on grass along the banks. Peter Marteka,, "10 Miles Of Trails Open 7 Days A Week, 52 Weeks A Year. Sherman's Deer Pond Farm Makes Its Debut," 13 July 2018 Feed lilies and other aquatic plants in home water gardens. Tom Maccubbin,, "June in the garden," 26 May 2018 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

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

28 Nov 2018

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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 \
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

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