sick·​ly | \ˈsi-klē \

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

Her skin was transformed into the Dark Lord's sickly shade of gray blue, and even featured a recreation of his slitted nose. Lauren Rearick, Teen Vogue, "Joey King Went as Voldemort for Halloween," 29 Oct. 2018 Moments like that, in which semi-surreal details are happened upon rather than contrived, demonstrate Van Sant at his most easeful, and the languor is sustained by Jonah Hill, as Donnie, a rich and sickly soul who becomes John’s A.A. sponsor. Anthony Lane, The New Yorker, "Gus Van Sant’s Semi-Surreal “Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot”," 13 July 2018 The sickly green illumination and starkly clinical setting of a 2009 Edmund Clark photograph are enough, on their own, to conjure bad dreams of Dr. Frankenstein’s unnameable offspring. Charles Desmarais,, "Summer exhibition at Hosfelt Gallery a monstrous affair," 6 July 2018 Adler himself was the youngest of two boys, a sickly child who was fiercely competitive with his older brother, Sigmund. Adam Sternbergh, The Cut, "The Extinction of the Middle Child," 11 July 2018 Everyone’s eyes were turned to deep dark shadows by the sickly yellow glow, and everyone was stepping slow and dreamy-like. Andrew Liptak, The Verge, "A transgender girl rises up against alien invaders in Rich Larson’s novel Annex," 8 July 2018 But when Winnie’s son, Midas, disappears, the sickly summer heat becomes a metaphor for fear and suspicion. Bethanne Patrick, The Seattle Times, "Six beach reads that bring more pleasure than guilt," 2 July 2018 With hints of greens and blues beneath her sallow flesh, the girl looks sickly. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "New England museums to visit this summer and fall," 4 July 2018 Mark McGwire sits on an allegedly leather couch in a windowless office next to the visitors’ clubhouse at Nationals Park in Washington, bathed in a sickly, fluorescent-green light., "Exiled by the Cubs, Sammy Sosa Is Enjoying the Life He Wants You to See," 27 June 2018

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

22 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

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 \
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 \

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).


to move with a clumsy heavy tread

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