\ ˈli-lē-ˈ(h)wīt How to pronounce lily-white (audio) \
variants: or less commonly lily white

Definition of lily-white

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : white as a lily lily-white sheets
2a : having or involving few or no people of color : lacking racial diversity All too often, big-city cops live in lily-white enclaves like Simi Valley, California …— Les Payne Unless the Saints hire a black coach …, the NFL will continue its lily-white string of hires …— Peter King Most disappointingly, the main cast remains lily-white.People Weekly
b : being or having extremely light pigmentation of the skin a lily-white complexion
3 or Lily-White or Lily White, dated, US politics : characterized by or favoring the exclusion of Black people especially from politics — compare black-and-tan sense 2
4 : lacking faults or imperfections : irreproachable, pure But Malcolm X has survived the gantlet of historical reassessment. A new generation responds to his principled rage precisely because he isn't lily white and goody-two-shoes.— Peter Rainer


variants: or lily white
plural lily-whites or lily whites

Definition of lily-white (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : something that is white He is a rock-solid, card-carrying free spirit, a young man who wears black tennis shoes in a sport that loves its lily whites— Bill Dwyre
2 usually Lily-White or Lily White, plural Lily-Whites or Lily Whites, dated, US politics : a member of a political organization favoring the exclusion of Black people A lifelong Republican in the tradition of Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, [Norris Wright] Cuney fought a decades-long battle with the "Lily-Whites," Texas Republicans obsessed with driving African Americans out of the party.— Joe Holley Known as Lily Whites in newspaper headlines, the segregationists maneuvered to exclude Black people from roles of significance.— Jack Schnedler

Synonyms & Antonyms for lily-white

Synonyms: Adjective

Antonyms: Adjective

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First Known Use of lily-white


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1851, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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The first known use of lily-white was in the 14th century

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Last Updated

18 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Lily-white.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Jun. 2021.

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English Language Learners Definition of lily-white

: very white
: completely without fault or blame : morally pure
chiefly US, disapproving : consisting entirely or mostly of white people

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