sly

adjective
\ˈslī \
slyer also slier\ˈslī(-​ə)r \; slyest also sliest\ˈslī-​əst \

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

Humor should always be present or ambient, even if sly or slight. New York Times, "Lydia Millet: By the Book," 7 June 2018 Good thing too, because the book is propulsive and sly and studded with memorable moments that feel irresistibly wise. Nathan Deuel, latimes.com, "Mexican novelist Julián Herbert's 'Tomb Song' marks him as one of the most innovative prose stylists of our time," 16 Mar. 2018 The movie laces all of these complications with its typical sly sense of humor and a love for big, ridiculous moments. Todd Vanderwerff, Vox, "The folks behind Ant-Man and the Wasp on why Marvel doesn’t always have to save the world," 5 July 2018 And game rooms and fitness centers can be a sly way to keep people near the office for more of the day. Detroit Free Press, "United Shore mortgage moves into new, amenity-filled Pontiac HQ," 23 June 2018 Thus instructed, there was no reason to believe that there was any sly misdirection, no bitter irony, no mistaking the intent. Robin Givhan, Houston Chronicle, "Nothing else Melania Trump wears will ever matter again," 13 July 2018 Modern technology now enjoys an increasing role in stopping the spread of infectious disease—and in the future, these tracking tools will reveal far more than whom bugs are smooching on the sly. Katherine J. Wu, Smithsonian, "How Tiny Trackers Could Help Humans Avoid Kissing Bugs’ Deadly Smooch," 9 July 2018 Despite Pekerman’s words, Colombia showed itself to be master of the sly. Martin Rogers, USA TODAY, "The World Cup is getting seriously dirty now," 4 July 2018 They are cleverly infused with sly visual references to a Surrealist and Expressionist pantheon of male artists — Munch’s face screams, Dali’s watches droop, Brancusi’s torso is another stump, Giacometti’s lopsided chariot would only run in circles. Christopher Knight, latimes.com, "'Made in L.A. 2018': Why the Hammer biennial is the right show for disturbing times," 5 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

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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 \
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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