\ 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 The sly expression, the slightness of stature, the ears befitting a fable. New York Times, "What if the Great American Novelist Doesn’t Write Novels?," 15 Dec. 2020 Zhao introduces a sly variation on this idea in the character of Dave (David Strathairn), a bumbling charmer whom Fern keeps running into, and whose unreciprocated attraction to her is sweetly obvious from their first RV-park encounter. Justin Chang Film Critic, Los Angeles Times, "Review: Frances McDormand is at her finest in ‘Nomadland,’ a sublime ode to American wanderlust," 2 Dec. 2020 This sly mode of viral spread may make the evolution of lower virulence less likely, as infected but asymptomatic people are the perfect mobile viral delivery systems. Wendy Orent, Smithsonian Magazine, "Will the Coronavirus Evolve to Be Less Deadly?," 16 Nov. 2020 But some scholars view the government’s proposals as a sly attempt to regulate religious affairs, specifically Muslim affairs. Washington Post, "France unveils draft law to boost ‘republican principles’ as debate over Islamism rages," 9 Dec. 2020 This sly mode of viral spread may make the evolution of lower virulence less likely, as infected but asymptomatic people are the perfect mobile viral delivery systems. Wendy Orent, Smithsonian Magazine, "Will the Coronavirus Evolve to Be Less Deadly?," 16 Nov. 2020 The result of their collaboration could plausibly be described as the first gay opera, although the text stays close to Melville’s sly, indirect formulations. Alex Ross, The New Yorker, "Pushed to the Edge by “Beau Travail”," 20 Oct. 2020 But as Yakko, Wakko, or Dot tend to remind us after every sly wink at standards and practices, Animaniacs is, in theory, children's programming. Kate Cox, Ars Technica, "The Animaniacs reboot, reviewed: Zany is harder to pull off in 2020," 23 Nov. 2020 This sly mode of viral spread may make the evolution of lower virulence less likely, as infected but asymptomatic people are the perfect mobile viral delivery systems. Wendy Orent, Smithsonian Magazine, "Will the Coronavirus Evolve to Be Less Deadly?," 16 Nov. 2020

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

29 Dec 2020

Cite this Entry

“Sly.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sly. Accessed 24 Jan. 2021.

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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

Nglish: Translation of sly for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of sly for Arabic Speakers

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