sly

adjective
\ ˈslī How to pronounce sly (audio) \
slyer also slier\ ˈslī(-​ə)r How to pronounce sly (audio) \; slyest also sliest\ ˈslī-​əst How to pronounce sly (audio) \

Definition of sly

1 chiefly dialectal
a : wise in practical affairs
b : displaying cleverness : ingenious
2a : clever in concealing one's aims or ends : furtive
b : lacking in straightforwardness and candor : dissembling
3 : lightly mischievous : roguish a sly jest
on the sly
: in a manner intended to avoid notice

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Other Words from sly

slyly or less commonly slily adverb
She slyly evaded the question.
slyness noun

Choose the Right Synonym for sly

sly, cunning, crafty, wily, tricky, foxy, artful, slick mean attaining or seeking to attain one's ends by guileful or devious means. sly implies furtiveness, lack of candor, and skill in concealing one's aims and methods. a sly corporate raider cunning suggests the inventive use of sometimes limited intelligence in overreaching or circumventing. the cunning fox avoided the trap crafty implies cleverness and subtlety of method. a crafty lefthander wily implies skill and deception in maneuvering. the wily fugitive escaped the posse tricky is more likely to suggest shiftiness and unreliability than skill in deception and maneuvering. a tricky political operative foxy implies a shrewd and wary craftiness usually involving devious dealing. a foxy publicity man planting stories artful implies indirectness in dealing and often connotes sophistication or cleverness. elicited the information by artful questioning slick emphasizes smoothness and guile. slick operators selling time-sharing

Examples of sly in a Sentence

the movie pairs a sly, dissembling ex-con with an upstanding, straight-arrow cop why, you sly fellow! I had no idea you were planning my birthday party
Recent Examples on the Web In her suite of seven sly dances, Krausas, who is a Canadian-American Los Angeles composer of Lithuanian heritage, lightly waltzes around and toys with fanciful passages from the Bulgakov’s novel. Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times, 12 May 2022 Both Justin Turner and Roberts had a sly look when asked about the third baseman’s slow start this season. Jack Harris, Los Angeles Times, 28 Apr. 2022 And for Nosferatu fans, there’s a sly F.W. Murnau joke. Stephanie Zacharek, Time, 31 Mar. 2022 Bit’s classmates and also, in a sly subversion, her grandparents, but Gold and Myers make stiff impersonations of elders. New York Times, 19 Apr. 2022 Purdue coach Matt Painter couldn't help but flash a sly glance at center Trevion Williams from across the dais during the Boilermakers postgame news conference. Akeem Glaspie, The Indianapolis Star, 21 Mar. 2022 What unites them all is O’Toole’s moral presence and literary voice: throughout, a sly, understated humor; when needed, passion and even anger. Cullen Murphy, The Atlantic, 14 Mar. 2022 Everything had been skewed against the visitor from Brockton, Massachusetts — Minter in his Union Jack trunks, the promoters with their sly tricks, the nationalistic crowd that rioted at the end — but the two judges had made the final decision. BostonGlobe.com, 3 Mar. 2022 Wearing a sly smile and an Ivica Zubac jersey over his cream sweatshirt that draped well past his waist, Patrick Beverley walked to his sideline seat Thursday inside Crypto.com Arena. Los Angeles Times, 18 Feb. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'sly.' 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 sly

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for sly

Middle English sleighe, sli, from Old Norse slœgr; akin to Old English slēan to strike — more at slay

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Time Traveler for sly

Time Traveler

The first known use of sly was in the 13th century

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Dictionary Entries Near sly

SLW

sly

slyboots

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Last Updated

16 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Sly.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sly. Accessed 27 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for sly

sly

adjective
\ ˈslī How to pronounce sly (audio) \
slier or slyer; sliest or slyest

Kids Definition of sly

1 : both clever and tricky
2 : tending to keep secrets and hide intentions
3 : mischievous sense 2 There were teachers all over the place, and any kind of fighting or taunting, above a sly pinch … was out.— Lynne Reid Banks, The Indian in the Cupboard
on the sly
: so as not to be seen or caught : secretly

Other Words from sly

slyly adverb
slyness noun

More from Merriam-Webster on sly

Nglish: Translation of sly for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of sly for Arabic Speakers

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