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

Definition of sickly

 (Entry 1 of 3)

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


sicklier; sickliest

Definition of sickly (Entry 2 of 3)

: in a manner indicating, causing, or suggestive of sickness Walking blindly, every step making him sick with pain, he … covered his face as much as he could, and struggled sickly along.— D. H. Lawrence His face turned a sickly shade of yellow.— Rick Riordan sometimes used figuratively Nick was the perfect boy for me. We were that sickly-sweet couple who never fought.— Sara Harari


sicklied; sicklying; sicklies

Definition of sickly (Entry 3 of 3)

transitive verb

: to make sick or sickly

Other Words from sickly


sickliness noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for sickly

Synonyms: Adjective

Antonyms: Adjective

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Examples of sickly in a Sentence

Adjective The walls were painted a sickly yellow. The lamp gave off a sickly glow.
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective He had been born a sickly child; his mother’s resolve and resilience were necessarily established early in his life. R.l. Ford, Variety, 16 June 2022 There was a sickly little orange one with a head that wobbled back and forth. Kathryn Scanlan, Harper’s Magazine , 20 July 2022 The youngest, Mark, was the sickly boy who inspired his mom to bake whole-wheat bread. Fox News, 24 June 2022 But at 87 years old, barely into middle age, the tree is sickly. New York Times, 28 May 2022 But at 87 years old, barely into middle age, the tree is sickly. Tim Arango,, 28 May 2022 Overnight, the Asian financial center was inundated with scenes of sickly older patients flooding hospital wards. David Pierson, Los Angeles Times, 17 Mar. 2022 The sky above the city’s historic plaza, made famous as a backdrop in movies and television series, was a sickly tinge of yellow and gray as thick smoke blotted out the sun. NBC News, 3 May 2022 The liquid is translucent and lustrous looking; but it could also be read as muddied water, spoiled soup or sickly bodily secretions. Deborah Vankinstaff Writer, Los Angeles Times, 4 Apr. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb And Jessie is stubbornly clinging to the only remedy that seems to help sickly Thomas at all: blood. Kolbie Peterson, The Salt Lake Tribune, 31 Jan. 2022 There is something unsavory, even sickly about the artist, something not entirely on the side of life. New York Times, 17 Sep. 2021 Klara is purchased for Josie, a sweet, sickly teenage girl who lives with her harried mother and a housekeeper outside the city. Sam Sacks, WSJ, 26 Feb. 2021 See More

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.

First Known Use of sickly


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1572, in the meaning defined above


1763, in the meaning defined above

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

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Last Updated

16 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Sickly.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for sickly


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

More from Merriam-Webster on sickly

Nglish: Translation of sickly for Spanish Speakers


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