sly

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

There were a lot of sly nods to the show’s dramatic revival. Emma Dibdin, Country Living, "5 Moments From the 'Last Man Standing' Premiere That We Can't Stop Talking About," 29 Sep. 2018 The docuseries already promises her trademark wit and sly sense of humor. Katherine J. Igoe, Marie Claire, "Ariana Grande's Dangerous Woman Diaries Docuseries Is Coming Out Today," 29 Nov. 2018 The very structure of the wrap dress simultaneously offered businesslike assertiveness to the wearer and, to the observer, the sly promise that it could be removed with one swift tug. Alex Kuczynski, Town & Country, "Diane and Talita von Furstenberg Turn an American Empire into a Family Dynasty," 7 Feb. 2019 Don’t say architecture can’t be funny; the structure was originally topped with a gilded antenna, both a reference to the religious spires that dot the Philadelphia skyline and a sly wink at the most popular pastime of retirees, watching television. Patrick Sisson, Curbed, "Masterpieces of Robert Venturi, a postmodern architecture icon," 20 Sep. 2018 The show is intended to be a satirical anthology that offers slight (and sly) social commentary in dealing with current issues like social media addiction, online dating, fitness obsession, and even genetic modification. Sara Delgado, Teen Vogue, "Dylan O'Brien and Auli'i Cravalho's New Show "Weird City" Has Its First Trailer," 10 Jan. 2019 Oh responded by briefly putting her hands over her heart and giving a sly smile. Erica Gonzales, Harper's BAZAAR, "Emma Stone Apologized for Whitewashing in Aloha in the Middle of the Golden Globes Monologue," 7 Jan. 2019 Moore argues for his left-leaning political views passionately and forcefully, often building his case by mixing damning archival footage and expert interviews with his own goofy antics and sly commentary. Alissa Wilkinson, Vox, "In Fahrenheit 11/9, Michael Moore spares no one — especially self-satisfied liberals," 7 Sep. 2018 Humor should always be present or ambient, even if sly or slight. New York Times, "Lydia Millet: By the Book," 7 June 2018

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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Dictionary Entries near sly

sluttery

slv

SLW

sly

slyboots

sly goose

slype

Statistics for sly

Last Updated

25 Mar 2019

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Time Traveler for sly

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

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More Definitions for sly

sly

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of sly

: clever in a dishonest way
: showing that you know a secret

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

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More from Merriam-Webster on sly

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for sly

Spanish Central: Translation of sly

Nglish: Translation of sly for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of sly for Arabic Speakers

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