sickly

1 of 3

adjective

sick·​ly ˈsi-klē How to pronounce sickly (audio)
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
4
a
: appearing as if sick
b
: lacking in vigor : weak
a sickly plant
5
: sickening
a sickly odor
sickliness noun

sickly

2 of 3

adverb

sicklier; sickliest
: 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

sickly

3 of 3

verb

sicklied; sicklying; sicklies

transitive verb

: to make sick or sickly

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
Near the end, yellowed skin and a bloated body put the often silent, slow-moving disease on sickly display. Ben Tanen, Washington Post, 8 Feb. 2024 An ailing whale That became painfully apparent five years ago, when another sickly Southern Resident known as J50 set the project into motion. Emily Anthes, New York Times, 26 Dec. 2023 The team has found evidence of the same bacteria in sickly dogs around New England but has only recently started to collect samples from other parts of the United States. Kelly Kasulis Cho, Washington Post, 21 Nov. 2023 Through those fake holes in the sickly wallpaper are glimpses of dark skies twinkling with stars. Mark Jenkins, Washington Post, 20 Oct. 2023 The Rangers were flailing amid a seven-game losing streak, and Lowe, out of sync, rolled over a changeup, producing a sickly dribbler. Tom Krasovic, San Diego Union-Tribune, 11 Oct. 2023 Thanks to the light reflecting off our new wall color, my pale Irish skin was no longer a dewy porcelain but sickly and pallid. House Beautiful, 5 Sep. 2023 Take away the imagery of sickly mutants and focus on their function, Lanier said. Tucker Harris, Washington Post, 29 Sep. 2023 On other slopes, towering trees were a sickly orange — the telltale sign of a bark beetle infestation. Gustavo Arellano, Los Angeles Times, 27 Sep. 2023
Adverb
Beans withered on the vine; carrots came out of the soil sickly and without crunch. Hazlitt, 6 Sep. 2023 The inarguable center of the image is another gruesome mouth, but most of the square footage belongs to a pale, sickly yellow that reinforces the mood without overwhelming it. Jackson Arn, The New Yorker, 11 Sep. 2023 There was a sickly little orange one with a head that wobbled back and forth. Matthew Gavin Frank, Harper's Magazine, 21 Aug. 2022 The only objects that had a distinguishable color amid the yellow hue were photographs of human faces—which appeared to participants as a sickly green. Timmy Broderick, Scientific American, 21 July 2023 Skies have been stained a sickly brown in the U.S. Northeast this week. Lauren J. Young, Scientific American, 7 June 2023 Smoke from Canadian wildfires that turned skies along the East Coast a sickly yellow has become yet another illustration of how changes in our climate foster extreme weather events. Madeline Heim, Journal Sentinel, 9 June 2023 Dull mirrors and drab metal stalls passed sickly fluorescence between them. Michael W. Clune, Harper’s Magazine , 7 Apr. 2023 Around the mirror, indistinct shadows play across the wall through a sickly yellow-green miasmic atmosphere, furthering a sense of uncertainty. Benjamin Lima, Dallas News, 22 Mar. 2021
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 examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'sickly.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

Adjective

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Adverb

1572, in the meaning defined above

Verb

1763, in the meaning defined above

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

Dictionary Entries Near sickly

Cite this Entry

“Sickly.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sickly. Accessed 22 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition

sickly

adjective
sick·​ly
ˈsik-lē
sicklier; sickliest
1
: somewhat sick : often ailing
was sickly as a child
2
: caused by or associated with ill health
a sickly complexion
3
a
: tending to produce disease
a sickly climate
b
: appearing as if sick
a sickly flame
c
: not growing well :
a sickly plant
d
: sickening
a sickly odor

Medical Definition

sickly

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

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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