\ 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
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 pigment print, one of 12 in the artist’s sly exhibition at Honor Fraser Gallery, is pretty funny too. Los Angeles Times, "Review: Oscar steps into artist Joe Sola’s sly Hollywood hall of mirrors," 19 Feb. 2020 The book is the act, or the performance, of a teacher: although written with graceful precision and sly wit, the book retains a tone of orality that, to me, is distinctly reminiscent of Perez’s voice—in particular, his classroom voice. Richard Brody, The New Yorker, "A Tribute to My Teacher Gilberto Perez and His Eloquent Philosophy of Cinema," 17 Jan. 2020 But Lawrence had a sly eye, and there are many less obvious subjects, too. Sebastian Smee, Washington Post, "These ‘missing’ Jacob Lawrence paintings are finally in a museum — and they’re masterpieces," 24 Jan. 2020 Who is going to be the first to get this sly entrance shot turned into a tattoo? . Kathryn Lindsay, refinery29.com, "Beyoncé & Jay-Z Just Snuck Into The Golden Globes," 5 Jan. 2020 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

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

25 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Sly.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sly. Accessed 26 Feb. 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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