\ 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 The model made a sly reference to not receiving part of Ocasek’s estate on Instagram Tuesday. Eric Todisco, PEOPLE.com, "Paulina Porizkova Reportedly Seeks Part of Late Cars Frontman Ric Ocasek's Estate — Then Makes Money Joke," 18 Dec. 2019 Such agreements are complex legal documents, and the language needs to be clear enough that neither side can squeeze out more concessions on the sly. The Economist, "America signs a limited trade agreement with Japan," 26 Sep. 2019 As Lloyd, Carrey’s sleek brown hair appears to have been cut around the rim of a bowl, most likely a sly homage to the Three Stooges’ Moe Howard. Stephanie Zacharek, Time, "25 Years Later, Dumb and Dumber Is More Than Just the Gold Standard for Toilet Humor," 23 Dec. 2019 The influence of Martin Scorsese is all over this film, in its unerring musical cues, its fluid camera work, and most of all its sly but cynical sense of humor. Kyle Smith, National Review, "The Ten Best Films of 2019," 23 Dec. 2019 The Fox This sly creature has a lot of people on the fence, but the most popular guess right now is Wayne Brady. Megan Stein, Country Living, "Who Are the Finalists on 'The Masked Singer?' We're Positive We've Got Them Figured Out," 14 Dec. 2019 Donald often refers to his closest collaborator, 30-year-old brother Stephen, who expanded on the idea of getting network head John Langraf's stamp of approval in a sly manner. Michael Saponara, Billboard, "Donald Glover Reveals How He Convinced FX to Make 'Atlanta' in Candid 'New Yorker' Profile," 26 Feb. 2018 The phrase isn’t just a teenage fad: Chlöe Swarbrick, a 25-year-old New Zealand politician, used it as a sly dis when an older colleague cut into her Parliament speech on climate change. Stephanie Zacharek, Time, "'OK Boomer' Captures the Tension Between Young and Old. Must It Be So Dismissive?," 21 Nov. 2019 Perhaps your eye is drawn to the tall and graceful giraffe or the sly cheetah. Kathryn Gregory, The Courier-Journal, "'The Lion King' roars into Louisville with stunning costumes and vibrant choreography," 2 Nov. 2019

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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Statistics for sly

Last Updated

14 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Sly.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sly. Accessed 24 January 2020.

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More Definitions for sly

How to pronounce sly (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of sly

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