adjective live·ly \ ˈlīv-lē \
|Updated on: 12 Aug 2018

Definition of lively

livelier; liveliest
1 obsolete : living
2 : briskly alert and energetic : vigorous, animated
  • a lively discussion
  • lively children racing for home
3 : active, intense
  • takes a lively interest in politics
4 : brilliant, fresh
  • a lively wit
5 : imparting spirit or vivacity : stimulating
  • many a peer of England brews livelier liquor than the Muse
  • —A. E. Housman
6 : quick to rebound : resilient
  • a lively ball
7 : responding readily to the helm
  • a lively boat
8 : full of life, movement, or incident
  • lively streets at carnival time


play \ˈlīv-lə-lē\ adverb


play \ˈlīv-lē-nəs\ noun



Examples of lively in a Sentence

  1. a very lively writing style

  2. The book is lively and well written.

  3. They had a lively debate.

  4. A lively atmosphere keeps people coming back to the café.

Recent Examples of lively from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'lively.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Origin and Etymology of lively

Middle English, from Old English līflīc, from līf life

Synonym Discussion of lively

lively, animated, vivacious, sprightly, gay mean keenly alive and spirited. lively suggests briskness, alertness, or energy.
    • a lively debate on the issues
animated applies to what is spirited and active.
    • an animated discussion of current events
vivacious suggests an activeness of gesture and wit, often playful or alluring.
    • a vivacious party host
sprightly suggests lightness and spirited vigor of manner or wit.
    • a tuneful, sprightly musical
gay stresses complete freedom from care and overflowing spirits.
    • the gay spirit of Paris in the 1920s

LIVELY Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of lively for English Language Learners

  • : very active and energetic

  • : full of energy, excitement, or feeling

  • : full of movement or activity

LIVELY Defined for Kids


adjective live·ly \ ˈlīv-lē \

Definition of lively for Students

livelier; liveliest
1 : full of life : active
  • a lively puppy
2 : showing or resulting from active thought
  • a lively imagination
3 : full of spirit or feeling : animated
  • lively music



Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up lively? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!


subject to rapid or unexpected change

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

The Eponym Quiz

  • rubens-painting
  • Which is the best synonym of bowdlerize?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!