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

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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 The Swim Soup collection contains two classic one-pieces and two pairs of swim trunks, each available in either a broccoli cheddar print or a sickly algae color. Jenny Singer, Glamour, 15 July 2021 Last year, the Bobcat fire burned more than 115,000 acres of the forest and came within feet of the historic Mt. Wilson Observatory, casting a sickly pall of black smoke and orange skies over northeast L.A. for days. Hayley Smith, Los Angeles Times, 9 July 2021 According to Breuer, the infected milkweed plants turn a sickly shade of yellow and become dangerous for the monarchs to consume. Abigail Chalmers, Star Tribune, 5 July 2021 In the frozen, sickly days of winter, Joe Biden invoked July 4th as the moment patriotic Americans would finally unite to declare victory over the pandemic. Stephen Collinson, CNN, 4 July 2021 Beneath its spines the skin wrinkled and stayed a sickly green. Jackie Polzin, Star Tribune, 6 July 2021 Gorgeous, moody lighting bathes the subjects in reds, pinks, cool blues and sickly greens, rendering the mundane horrific and the horrific melodramatic. Mark Olsen Staff Writer, Los Angeles Times, 11 June 2021 State wildlife commissioners and private groups are considering a suite of potential solutions that range from replanting vegetation to rounding up sickly creatures en masse and rehabilitating them. Washington Post, 5 June 2021 One pet store in the county racked up 66 complaints in the last year, officials said, more than half of which involved sickly pups. Stephen Hudak,, 11 May 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb 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

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


1572, in the meaning defined above


1763, in the meaning defined above

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Time Traveler for sickly

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

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Statistics for sickly

Last Updated

23 Jul 2021

Cite this Entry

“Sickly.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Jul. 2021.

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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

More from Merriam-Webster on sickly

Nglish: Translation of sickly for Spanish Speakers


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