sick·​ly | \ ˈsi-klē How to pronounce sickly (audio) \

Definition of sickly

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : somewhat unwell also : habitually ailing
2 : produced by or associated with sickness a sickly complexion a sickly appetite
3 : producing or tending to produce disease : unwholesome a sickly climate
4a : appearing as if sick
b : lacking in vigor : weak a sickly plant
5 : sickening a sickly odor


sicklied; sicklying

Definition of sickly (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

: to make sick or sickly

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Other Words from sickly


sickliness noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for sickly

Synonyms: Adjective

ailing, invalid, weakly

Antonyms: Adjective

healthy, well

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Examples of sickly in a Sentence


The walls were painted a sickly yellow. The lamp gave off a sickly glow.

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

The couple disregard the advice, and the woman gives birth to a sickly infant. Audrey Farley, The Atlantic, "Steel Magnolias Is a Beloved Weepy With a Dark Side," 15 July 2019 Puma are once again the manufacturers having taken over from Nike over the off-season, producing a design that graduates from bright pink at the bottom of the jersey to a sickly yellow at the top., "Manchester City Kit 2019/20: Fans Repulsed as Citizens Release Fluorescent Third Strip," 15 July 2019 Palm frond print can be neon or pastel or black and white, and the palm fronds do not have to be the actual color of palm trees, which in the case of Los Angeles right now is mostly a sickly yellow. Kaitlyn Tiffany, Vox, "How palm frond print went from the French Riviera to Target," 12 July 2019 While skies do often turn green during a tornado, there's no real correlation between the tornado itself and the sickly hue. Kiona Smith-strickland, Popular Mechanics, "The Truth Behind 7 Common Tornado Myths," 9 July 2019 Who would have thought the 2019 team, with the third-fewest runs in the majors and so many sickly batting statistics, would fall three runs short of matching the feat? Henry Schulman,, "Giants power their way to fourth straight win, first three-game sweep of 2019," 4 July 2019 The fine dust turned the surface of the sea the colour of butter and left a bright, lemony line on shore that marked the extent of high tide and gave off a sickly sweet smell. The Economist, "Alaska’s changing climate," 4 July 2019 Aside for a few aging relics, all that’s left are slender saplings and unruly shrubs that sprouted from the seeds of other sickly chestnuts. Julia Rosen,, "Should we resurrect the American chestnut tree with genetic engineering?," 25 June 2019 By watching to see whether the yeast lived, died or grew sickly, the researchers generated data about the existence of relationships between the genes. Quanta Magazine, "Giant Genetic Map Shows Life’s Hidden Links," 25 Oct. 2016

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


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1763, in the meaning defined above

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Statistics for sickly

Last Updated

19 Jul 2019

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Time Traveler for sickly

The first known use of sickly was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for sickly



English Language Learners Definition of sickly

: often affected by a disease or illness : not healthy and strong
: caused by or relating to sickness
: causing a person to feel sick


sick·​ly | \ ˈsik-lē How to pronounce sickly (audio) \
sicklier; sickliest

Kids Definition of sickly

1 : somewhat sick : often ailing I was sickly as a child.
2 : caused by or associated with ill health a sickly complexion
3 : sickening a sickly odor
4 : appearing as if sick The sickly plants withered away.


sick·​ly | \ ˈsik-lē How to pronounce sickly (audio) \

Medical Definition of sickly

1 : somewhat unwell also : habitually ailing a sickly child
2 : produced by or associated with sickness a sickly complexion
3 : producing or tending to produce disease a sickly climate
4 : tending to produce nausea a sickly odor

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More from Merriam-Webster on sickly

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for sickly

Spanish Central: Translation of sickly

Nglish: Translation of sickly for Spanish Speakers

Comments on sickly

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


an act or instance of editing or removing

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