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sil·​ly ˈsi-lē How to pronounce silly (audio)
sillier; silliest
: exhibiting or indicative of a lack of common sense or sound judgment
a very silly mistake
: weak in intellect
acting like a silly fool
: playfully lighthearted and amusing
a silly sense of humor
: trifling, frivolous
a silly waste of time
: being stunned or dazed
scared silly
knocked me silly
archaic : rustic, plain
The silly buckets on the deck,/That had so long remained,/I dreamt that they were filled with dew;/And when I awoke, it rained. Samuel Taylor Coleridge
obsolete : lowly in station : humble
archaic : helpless, weak
sillily adverb
silliness noun


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informal : to an extreme degree
was scared silly
bored silly
: in a silly manner : in an absurd or ridiculous way
talking/behaving silly
Benny Hill just walked silly, period, usually at high speed, to the accompaniment of cheesy pop music … Charles Isherwood


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plural sillies
: one who is silly : a foolish person
"But there," she told herself, "I am very likely a silly—meeting trouble half-way." D. H. Lawrence
"Well then, silly, why not stay!" Edna Ferber
"And who, then? Oh, the long line of sillies, light-weights, rakes, ne'er-do-wells, who … constituted society." Theodore Dreiser
When the narrator describes women directly they seem … innately either sentimental sillies … or … pious hypocrites. Myra Jehlen

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Choose the Right Synonym for silly

simple, foolish, silly, fatuous, asinine mean actually or apparently deficient in intelligence.

simple implies a degree of intelligence inadequate to cope with anything complex or involving mental effort.

considered people simple who had trouble with computers

foolish implies the character of being or seeming unable to use judgment, discretion, or good sense.

foolish stunts

silly suggests failure to act as a rational being especially by ridiculous behavior.

the silly antics of revelers

fatuous implies foolishness, inanity, and disregard of reality.

fatuous conspiracy theories

asinine suggests utter and contemptible failure to use normal rationality or perception.

an asinine plot

Example Sentences

Adjective I hope I didn't make any silly mistakes. The idea does seem a bit silly. That's the silliest thing I've ever heard. You drove in this weather? What a silly thing to do! Silly me. I locked myself out of the car again. Ask a silly question, and you get a silly answer. “I can't ask you to do that.” “Don't be silly. It is my pleasure.” What a silly little purse. It looks too small to hold everything that I'd need to carry. I'm tired of watching silly movies. The book was a silly waste of time. See More
Recent Examples on the Web
Alba chews gum while her daughter lip-syncs the silly tune while dancing. Angela Andaloro, Peoplemag, 20 Sep. 2022 As my colleague Creg Stephenson pointed out on Twitter, this is why all the piling on of Brian Kelly after the Florida State loss was silly. John Talty |, al, 18 Sep. 2022 The unusualness of the absence, combined with the lack of information about it, has produced rampant speculation and rumors, some of which are silly even for the NFL. Andrew Beaton, WSJ, 22 Aug. 2022 Many of those ideas are silly — like Andrew Yang‘s proposal for a third party that deliberately lacks any ideological content and doesn’t stand for anything other than not being one of the main parties. David Lauter, Los Angeles Times, 19 Aug. 2022 It’s quintessential Peele: memorably surreal, spooky and a little bit silly. Michael O'sullivan, Anchorage Daily News, 20 July 2022 Everyone’s reaction seemed a bit silly—like getting mad about a fart. Ian Allen, The New Republic, 20 Apr. 2022 Doesn’t this all sound even just a little bit silly? Zach Osterman, The Indianapolis Star, 18 Apr. 2022 Perhaps as silly and a bit more edgy is Tiffany Haddish’s police officer pulling Joe over. Lisa Kennedy, Variety, 4 Aug. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'silly.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History



Middle English sely, silly happy, innocent, pitiable, feeble, from Old English sǣlig, from sǣl happiness; akin to Old High German sālig happy

First Known Use


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 4


1731, in the meaning defined at sense 2


1560, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of silly was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near silly

Cite this Entry

“Silly.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Oct. 2022.

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Kids Definition



sil·​ly ˈsi-lē How to pronounce silly (audio)
sillier; silliest
: having or showing a lack of common sense : foolish
Silly me! I forgot again.
What a silly mistake!
: not serious or important
a silly reason
: playful and lighthearted
silly jokes
silliness noun

More from Merriam-Webster on silly

Last Updated: 22 Sep 2022

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