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 figurativelyNick 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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from sickly


sickliness noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for sickly

Synonyms: Adjective

Antonyms: Adjective

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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 A third of men who had appeared at recruiting stations to fight the Boer settlers were rejected on the grounds of being too puny or sickly to fight. The Economist, "Fat chance Boris Johnson’s plans for a fitter nation," 1 Aug. 2020 As one farmer told PBS, his only real job is to remove sickly or dead chickens from the barns. Robin Kaiser-schatzlein, The New Republic, "Monopolies Make Their Own Rules," 7 July 2020 Jorge suffered from sickly lungs since childhood, having a debilitating lung disease that nearly ended his life, according to the Mayo Clinic. Omar Sanchez,, "Euphoria star Jacob Elordi and Tiera Skovbye find love in 2 Hearts trailer," 16 June 2020 But strangely, the X-Wing wasn’t necessarily destined to be the small snubfighter that would pick away at the sickly corpse of the Empire, like womp rats feasting on carrion. Zarnon Kalgon, Popular Mechanics, "Why the X-Wing Is Such a Badass Spaceplane," 4 May 2020 Jails in California, New York, Ohio, Texas and at least a dozen other states are sending low-level offenders and elderly or sickly inmates home early due to coronavirus fears. Deanna Paul, WSJ, "Jails Release Prisoners, Fearing Coronavirus Outbreak," 22 Mar. 2020 Or we’d be stuck here, with a sickly kid on a feeding tube and a million drugs, not getting bigger, like Lizzie and her brother, in the next slot over. Matthew Klam, The New Yorker, "The Liver," 9 Mar. 2020 The landscape plan by Hood Design calls for removing nearly all of the current plantings, including a statuesque but sickly cypress at the edge of the central lawn, and shifting to California-friendly vegetation. John King,, "When worlds collide: Lake Merritt and Oakland Museum finally will connect," 21 Sep. 2019 Any suggestions on how to help my sickly stag horn? oregonlive, "Ask an expert: Have bluegrass in your lawn? Learn to love it," 5 Apr. 2020

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about sickly

Time Traveler for sickly

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for sickly

Last Updated

3 Aug 2020

Cite this Entry

“Sickly.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 15 Aug. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for sickly


How to pronounce sickly (audio)

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

Keep scrolling for more

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).


Test Your Vocabulary

Name That Thing: Animal Edition

  • alt 5a023732e6f75
  • Name that animal:
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Add Diction

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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