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 There was something ominous, even frightening, about the spectacle of this sickly man, now come dangerously alive, at the edge of abandon. David Remnick, The New Yorker, 11 Oct. 2021 On Sunday, the Mets scored a 9-4 win over a sickly Washington Nationals team gutted by trades. New York Times, 30 Aug. 2021 Many, however, remained because family members, sometimes elderly or sickly, couldn’t be airlifted with them. Ethan Barton, Fox News, 3 Oct. 2021 Natalia Zhdanova, 40, found Fedya as a weak and sickly stray in her backyard when the cat was just a few days old. People Staff,, 28 Sep. 2021 Camera feeds near the Fawn fire showed sickly orange-gray smoke rolling across the sky. Hayley Smith, Los Angeles Times, 24 Sep. 2021 His first glance was the frown of the man; the second was the bland and sickly smile of the demagogue. Washington Post, 3 Sep. 2021 Klara and the Sun, a recent novel by Kazuo Ishiguro, follows a humanoid robot named Klara who is tasked with providing companionship to a sickly child. Kate Cray, The Atlantic, 17 Sep. 2021 The lake, renowned for its bright blue hues and the evergreen forests that surround it, was smothered in a slate of sickly orange-gray haze., 31 Aug. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb 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

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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Last Updated

27 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Sickly.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Oct. 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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