sully

verb
sul·​ly | \ ˈsə-lē How to pronounce sully (audio) \
sullied; sullying

Definition of sully

 (Entry 1 of 4)

transitive verb

: to make soiled or tarnished : defile

sully

noun
plural sullies

Definition of sully (Entry 2 of 4)

archaic
: soil, stain

Sully

biographical name (1)
Sul·​ly | \ ˈsə-lē How to pronounce Sully (audio) , (ˌ)sə-ˈlē, sᵫ-ˈlē\

Definition of Sully (Entry 3 of 4)

Duc de 1560–1641 Maximilien de Béthune Baron de Rosny \ də-​rō-​ˈnē How to pronounce də-rō-ˈnē (audio)\ French statesman

Sully

biographical name (2)
Sul·​ly | \ ˈsə-lē How to pronounce Sully (audio) \

Definition of Sully (Entry 4 of 4)

Thomas 1783–1872 American (English-born) painter

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Synonyms & Antonyms for sully

Synonyms: Verb

befoul, begrime, bemire, besmirch, blacken, daub, dirty, distain [archaic], foul, gaum [dialect], grime, mire, muck, muddy, smirch, smudge, soil, stain

Antonyms: Verb

clean, cleanse

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Did You Know?

Verb

The spelling of sully has shifted several times since it was sylian in Old-English, but its meaning has remained essentially the same: "to soil." If you're looking for other words that mean "to soil," you can try out befoul, besmirch, blacken, foul, grime, stain, or simply dirty. You might wonder if the English word sullen (meaning "gloomy or morose") is a relative of sully, and the answer is no. Sullen traces back by way of Anglo- and Old French to Latin solus, meaning "alone."

Examples of sully in a Sentence

Verb

people that sully our state parks with their trash a once-gleaming marble interior sullied by decades of exposure to cigarette smoke

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Instead, by the narrow standards of his day, his reputation was sullied. New York Times, "Overlooked No More: Alan Turing, Condemned Code Breaker and Computer Visionary," 5 June 2019 In China’s largest cities these days, one doesn’t sully one’s fingers with actual cash. Aaron Pressman, Fortune, "Why Cash Is Quickly Disappearing From China's Economy—Data Sheet," 5 June 2019 So suck it up, let people sully your floors, and clean well the next day. Liz Krieger, Good Housekeeping, "Shoes Are Banned In My House — But I Have One Very Important Exception," 12 June 2019 The year before, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill had sullied the Gulf coast, coating beaches, plants, and animals from Texas to Florida. Alejandra Borunda, National Geographic, "It's time to rethink Mardi Gras—without tons of plastic beads," 22 Feb. 2019 So Larry Brown’s 1980 squad is Vacated largely for the sins of John Wooden’s program because the NCAA didn’t want to sully Wooden’s iconic memory. Charles P. Pierce, SI.com, "It's Time for the NCAA to Reinstate the Vacated Teams to College Basketball's Record Books," 1 Apr. 2018 Executives have spent years shining up a reputation sullied by the 2008 crisis and refashioning the elite firm as a Main Street bank. Bradley Hope, WSJ, "Justice Department Charges Ex-Goldman Bankers in Malaysia 1MDB Scandal," 1 Nov. 2018 Her reputation was sullied by scandals, including a 1991 conviction for kidnapping and assault. Washington Post, "South Africa declares mourning period for Madikizela-Mandela," 3 Apr. 2018 Washington regulators have repeatedly denied permits for a coal export terminal, citing concerns that coal exports will sully the state's water quality, and trains transporting the coal into Washington will damage air quality. Megan Geuss, Ars Technica, "King Coal isn’t dead—he’s just been exiled from the US," 20 Dec. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'sully.' 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 sully

Verb

15th century, in the meaning defined above

Noun

1601, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for sully

Verb

Middle English *sullien, probably alteration (influenced by Anglo-French suillier, soiller to soil) of sulen to soil, from Old English sylian

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Dictionary Entries near sully

sullens

Sullivan

sullow

sully

Sully

Sully Prudhomme

sulph-

Statistics for sully

Last Updated

8 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for sully

The first known use of sully was in the 15th century

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More Definitions for sully

sully

verb

English Language Learners Definition of sully

formal : to damage or ruin the good quality of (something)

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More from Merriam-Webster on sully

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with sully

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for sully

Spanish Central: Translation of sully

Nglish: Translation of sully for Spanish Speakers

Comments on sully

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