surly

adjective
sur·​ly | \ ˈsər-lē How to pronounce surly (audio) \
surlier; surliest

Definition of surly

1 : menacing or threatening in appearance surly weather
2 obsolete : arrogant, imperious
3 : irritably sullen and churlish in mood or manner : crabbed

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from surly

surlily \ ˈsər-​lə-​lē How to pronounce surlily (audio) \ adverb
surliness \ ˈsər-​lē-​nəs How to pronounce surliness (audio) \ noun
surly adverb

Choose the Right Synonym for surly

sullen, glum, morose, surly, sulky, crabbed, saturnine, gloomy mean showing a forbidding or disagreeable mood. sullen implies a silent ill humor and a refusal to be sociable. remained sullen amid the festivities glum suggests a silent dispiritedness. a glum candidate left to ponder a stunning defeat morose adds to glum an element of bitterness or misanthropy. morose job seekers who are inured to rejection surly implies gruffness and sullenness of speech or manner. a typical surly teenager sulky suggests childish resentment expressed in peevish sullenness. grew sulky after every spat crabbed applies to a forbidding morose harshness of manner. the school's notoriously crabbed headmaster saturnine describes a heavy forbidding aspect or suggests a bitter disposition. a saturnine cynic always finding fault gloomy implies a depression in mood making for seeming sullenness or glumness. a gloomy mood ushered in by bad news

Did You Know?

In its very earliest uses in the 16th century, surly meant "majestic" or "lordly." These early meanings make sense when you know that this word is an alteration of Middle English "serreli," which probably comes from "sire, ser," a title formerly used as a form of address for men of rank or authority. So how did a word with such lofty beginnings come to be associated with grumbling rudeness? Arrogant and domineering behavior is sometimes associated with men of rank or position, and "surly" came to mean "haughty" or "imperious." These meanings (which are now obsolete) led to the "rude" sense that is very common today.

Examples of surly in a Sentence

went about his chores in a surly huff, totally annoyed that he was stuck at home on this beautiful Saturday the surly receptionist told us we'd have to wait outside in the rain

Recent Examples on the Web

The often-surly Ava steals a dog which leads her to its owner, Juan (Juan Cano), who’s taken refuge on a deserted stretch of beach after being hurt in a fight. Loren King, BostonGlobe.com, "At the MFA, it’s time for the Boston French Film Festival," 5 July 2018 Schoonover is unbreakably peppy as Marilyn; the bet is that Abby can’t make Marilyn angry, and Schoonover’s beaming smile and resilient happiness are like nails on a chalkboard for Gottesman’s surly Abby. Nelson Pressley, Washington Post, "Lindsay-Abaire’s ‘Ripcord’ pulls the rug out from under senior-living pranksters," 19 June 2019 Napoleon, a shy, surly, solitary boy with a ghastly Corsican accent and floppy spaniel’s sidelocks, was unhappy among the self-confident aristocratic cadets, who teased him about his humble origins. Adam Zamoyski, The New York Review of Books, "An Ordinary Man," 4 Apr. 2019 Unlike surly, tight-lipped coaches, like Bill Belichick or Gregg Popovich, the players’ refusal to explain themselves is never read as a sign of wizard eccentricity. Hua Hsu, The New Yorker, "The Profound Silence of Marshawn Lynch," 14 June 2019 Several encounters follow during which Emily gains the surly Harry’s trust. Gary Goldstein, latimes.com, "Review: Diane Keaton and Brendan Gleeson add needed charm to ‘Hampstead’," 13 June 2019 The Dylan of Rolling Thunder Revue is a surly troubadour in eyeliner and patchy white face paint, which was possibly, or quite probably not, inspired by the stage makeup worn by Kiss. Stephanie Zacharek, Time, "Martin Scorsese’s Bob Dylan Film Rolling Thunder Revue Is One of the Most Truthful Movies You’ll See in 2019," 12 June 2019 The surly Patriots coach Bill Belichick will entertain the possibility of smiling. Ben Cohen, WSJ, "If Goat Emojis Are Flooding Your Twitter Feed, Blame Tom Brady," 29 Jan. 2019 The story of the maybe-couple’s lofty meet-cute had slipped the surly bonds of mirth. Megan Garber, The Atlantic, "#PlaneBae and the Slow Death of Whimsy," 6 July 2018

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

See More

First Known Use of surly

1523, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for surly

alteration of Middle English serreli lordly, imperious, probably from sire, ser sire

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about surly

Listen to Our Podcast about surly

Statistics for surly

Last Updated

16 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for surly

The first known use of surly was in 1523

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for surly

surly

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of surly

: rude and unfriendly

surly

adjective
sur·​ly | \ ˈsər-lē How to pronounce surly (audio) \
surlier; surliest

Kids Definition of surly

: mean and rude : unfriendly a surly neighbor

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on surly

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with surly

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for surly

Spanish Central: Translation of surly

Nglish: Translation of surly for Spanish Speakers

Comments on surly

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

WORD OF THE DAY

food or victuals

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Farm Idioms Quiz

  • cow coming home
  • What does 'poke' refer to in the expression 'pig in a poke'?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Citation

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

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!