adverb sure·ly \ˈshu̇r-lē, especially Southern ˈshȯr-\

Definition of surely

  1. 1 :  in a sure manner:a archaic :  without danger or risk of injury or loss :  safelyb (1) :  with assurance :  confidently <answered quickly and surely> (2) :  without doubt :  certainly <they will surely be heard from in the future — R. J. Lifton>

  2. 2 :  indeed, really —often used as an intensive <you surely don't believe that>

sure vs. surely

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>.

Examples of surely in a sentence

  1. She answered quickly and surely.

  2. He will surely be missed.

  3. This is surely the best dessert you have ever made.

  4. Surely you must admit that it was a good decision.

14th Century

First Known Use of surely

14th century

SURELY Defined for English Language Learners


adverb sure·ly \ˈshu̇r-lē, especially Southern ˈshȯr-\

Definition of surely for English Language Learners

  • : in a confident way

  • : without a doubt

  • —used in negative statements to show surprise that something could be true

SURELY Defined for Kids


adverb sure·ly \ˈshu̇r-lē\

Definition of surely for Students

  1. 1 :  without doubt <It's a book you will surely enjoy.>

  2. 2 :  beyond question :  really <I surely do miss them.>

  3. 3 :  with confidence :  confidently <He answered their questions surely.>

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up surely? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to handle or deal with in a skillful way

Get Word of the Day daily email!


Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!

  • m-ws-new-words-quiz
  • Which word means "inability to recognize faces"?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.