wilier; wiliest
: full of wiles : crafty
a wily negotiator
wilily adverb
wiliness noun
Choose the Right Synonym for wily

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 wily in a Sentence

She turned out to be a wily negotiator. a wily judge of character, she takes advantage of car buyers' insecurities to sell them a bigger machine than they really need
Recent Examples on the Web Blunt’s lengthier film résumé gives her an edge. Nominations: Blunt SUPPORTING ACTOR Robert Downey Jr.’s wily, ranging turn as Adm. Lewis Strauss, Oppenheimer’s antagonist, is essentially a second lead in the movie. Glenn Whipp, Los Angeles Times, 13 Nov. 2023 Ian Sweet: Sucker [Polyvinyl] Sucker, the fourth album from wily pop and indie-rock artist Ian Sweet, injects the songwriter’s self-scrutinizing lyrics with soaring melodies expand upon every element of her diverse catalog. Allison Hussey, Pitchfork, 3 Nov. 2023 Finally, a wily coyote has airport security running in circles in Los Angeles. CNN, 31 Oct. 2023 There is an exception amongst the play’s women, and that’s Rivera’s wily, gripping performance as Hekuba (apart from Fu and Strickland, all the play’s actors take on multiple roles). Sara Holdren, Vulture, 20 Oct. 2023 Carla Bley, an irrepressibly original composer, arranger and pianist responsible for more than 60 years of wily provocations in and around jazz, died on Tuesday at her home in Willow, a hamlet that is part of the town of Woodstock, N.Y. Nate Chinen, New York Times, 17 Oct. 2023 In 2021, there were tales of wily software engineers juggling multiple remote jobs, while Meta and Google engaged in an arms race for top talent, turning mere idleness into a high-six-figure endeavor. Kylie Robison, Fortune, 17 Aug. 2023 These choices have resulted in a show that is unconventional but also wily and alive. Phillip MacIak, The New Republic, 27 Sep. 2023 Ariely, a wily character with a vivid origin story, presented himself as the natural heir to this new science of human folly. Gideon Lewis-Kraus, The New Yorker, 30 Sep. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'wily.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined above

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

Dictionary Entries Near wily

Cite this Entry

“Wily.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/wily. Accessed 10 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


wilier; wiliest
: full of deceit : tricky
a wily opponent
wiliness noun

More from Merriam-Webster on wily

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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