sure·​ly ˈshu̇r-lē How to pronounce surely (audio)
 especially Southern  ˈshȯr-
: in a sure manner:
archaic : without danger or risk of injury or loss : safely
: with assurance : confidently
answered quickly and surely
: without doubt : certainly
they will surely be heard from in the future R. J. Lifton
: indeed, really
often used as an intensive
you surely don't believe that
Sure vs. Surely: Usage Guide

Most commentators consider the adverb sure to be something less than completely standard; surely is usually recommended as a substitute. Our current evidence shows, however, that sure and surely have become differentiated in use. Sure is used in much more informal contexts than surely. It is used as a simple intensive

I can never know how much I bored her, but, be certain, she sure amused me Norman Mailer

and, because it connotes strong affirmation, it is used when the speaker or writer expects to be agreed with.

it's a moot point whether politicians are less venal than in Twain's day. But they're sure as the devil more intrusive Alan Abelson
he sure gets them to play D. S. Looney

Surely, like sure, is used as a simple intensive

I surely don't want to leave the impression that I had an unhappy childhood E. C. Welsh

but it occurs in more formal contexts than sure. Unlike sure it may be used neutrally—the reader or hearer may or may not agree

it would surely be possible, within a few years, to program a computer to construct a grammar Noam Chomsky

and it is often used when the writer is trying to persuade.

surely a book on the avant-garde cannot be so conventional Karl Shapiro

Example Sentences

She answered quickly and surely. He will surely be missed. This is surely the best dessert you have ever made. Surely you must admit that it was a good decision.
Recent Examples on the Web Over the last decade, organizations around the globe have been slowly but surely migrating their applications to the cloud. Lisa Wolfe, Forbes, 11 Nov. 2022 With Korean skin-care products widely available in the U.S. these days, South Korea's makeup offerings are slowly but surely becoming just as accessible stateside, too. Devon Abelman, Allure, 4 Nov. 2022 Some Swiss people have surely gotten this message and are attempting to live more energy-moderate lifestyles. Jordan G. Teicher, The New Republic, 15 Nov. 2022 The backfield has been slowly, but surely trending in the rookie’s favor for the last month and this culminated with him receiving his first start against the Seahawks in Munich, finishing with a career-best 105 yards on 22 carries. Eddie Brown, San Diego Union-Tribune, 15 Nov. 2022 Becoming a world record holder in pull-ups surely requires dedication and resolve. Barbara Spindel, The Christian Science Monitor, 14 Nov. 2022 The exclusive building will surely entice high-profile individuals thanks to this rare ownership opportunity in a new building, as well as for the neighborhood. Emma Reynolds, Robb Report, 14 Nov. 2022 What Hoover felt about all this remains elusive—a frustration, surely, for the biographer, and occasionally for the reader. Margaret Talbot, The New Yorker, 14 Nov. 2022 Technically that decision came in 2021, but the Patriots surely regret picking up the option and guaranteeing Wynn’s $10.413 million salary. Ben Volin,, 13 Nov. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'surely.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of surely was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near surely

Cite this Entry

“Surely.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition



sure·​ly ˈshu̇(ə)r-lē How to pronounce surely (audio)
: with confidence
answered quickly and surely
: without doubt : certainly
they will surely be heard from again
: beyond question : truly
I surely am tired this afternoon

More from Merriam-Webster on surely

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