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 Last week, though, the sky above it was a sickly orange, as firefighters fought to save it, along with an array of television and communications towers that also sit on Mount Wilson, from the Bobcat Fire. Amy Davidson Sorkin, The New Yorker, "The Tragedy of the West Coast Wildfires," 20 Sep. 2020 The reason for the orange—and for the wan yellows and sickly grays that followed—is a combination of atmospheric chemistry and the physics of teeny-tiny things. Adam Rogers, Wired, "Those Orange Western Skies and the Science of Light," 10 Sep. 2020 The captor’s depicted strength contrasts with the thin, sickly appearance of his naked prisoner, according to researchers. Nora Mcgreevy, Smithsonian Magazine, "Six-Year-Old Boy Discovers Rare Canaanite Tablet," 27 May 2020 The painting brings together the contradiction of a healthy daughter and sickly mother, collapsing the promise of wholesome youth and the fear of bodily disintegration. Elizabeth Lee, The Conversation, "One 19th-century artist’s effort to grapple with tuberculosis resonates during COVID-19," 31 July 2020 Tim Gottwald will never forget the sight: the mottled yellow leaves, the withered branches, the small, misshapen fruits, tinged with sickly green. Katherine J. Wu, Smithsonian Magazine, "Can Disease-Sniffing Dogs Save the World’s Citrus?," 3 Feb. 2020 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

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

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for sickly

Last Updated

2 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Sickly.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 Oct. 2020.

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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

More from Merriam-Webster on sickly

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for sickly

Nglish: Translation of sickly for Spanish Speakers

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