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

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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 president is old and sickly, and one of his predecessors died in office. The Economist, "How WhatsApp is used and misused in Africa," 18 July 2019 Just as Granny said, Ah Yang had always been a sickly and unlucky child. Lu Yang, The New Yorker, "Silver Tiger," 4 June 2017 That seems a fitting symbol for this rendering of a composer who was pursued by gloom all his life: sickly, suffering from recurrent mental distress, dead at just 39. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Review: Hershey Felder brings Chopin vividly to life in reprise of solo show about composer’s life and work," 16 Sep. 2019 By the end of the debate, Kennedy, tanned and relaxed, appeared to have triumphed over a sickly looking Nixon who had been noticeably perspiring under Mr. Hymes’s lights. Richard Sandomir,, "Phil Hymes, 96, who lit ‘Saturday Night Live’," 3 Aug. 2019 Today, white wine is king, as Alsace specializes in dry Riesling and Gewürztraminer (distinct from the sickly sweetness usually associated with these styles) along its famed Route des Vins d’Alsace. Tyler Moss, Condé Nast Traveler, "An Autumnal Road Trip Through Alsace Wine Country," 13 Aug. 2019 On Saturday, Wild Care officials were notified of another young, potentially sickly bald eagle after it was spotted crashing into a resident's deck in Truro. Fox News, "Massachusetts wildlife center rescues 2 bald eagles showing signs of starvation, other health issues," 23 July 2019 Officials at a wildlife rehabilitation center in Eastham, Mass., have taken two sickly, juvenile bald eagles under their wing. Fox News, "Massachusetts wildlife center rescues 2 bald eagles showing signs of starvation, other health issues," 23 July 2019 But Givner’s father was sickly at the time, and his family decided to move to a warmer, drier climate. Keith Sharon, The Mercury News, "The man who stayed late: The Watergate story you’ve never heard," 17 June 2019

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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Statistics for sickly

Last Updated

25 Oct 2019

Time Traveler for sickly

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

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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

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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

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