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

Example Sentences

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 Whether chasing after his wily coal-digging frenemy Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins) or local criminal matriarch Mags Bennett (Margo Martindale), Raylan's ties to his Harlan County past made his detective work so rich and complicated. Ew Staff, EW.com, 17 Mar. 2023 In a new kind of realism, Gravel chronicles Julie’s daily activities by concentrating on the wily and unafraid actions of a modern, alert being. Armond White, National Review, 8 Feb. 2023 That idea was inspired by the Rossini comic opera warhorse, in which Liverman found himself once again singing the role of the wily barber, Figaro. Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune, 8 Feb. 2023 Helmed by Benjamin Caron and written by Brian Gatewood and Alessandra Tanaka (of the The Sitter), Sharper aspires to be a wily tale of deception and a nervy, nail-biting adventure. Lovia Gyarkye, The Hollywood Reporter, 7 Feb. 2023 Yet the wily virus continues to cast a long shadow, claiming more than 400 lives a day nationally, and more than 100 last week in Massachusetts. Kay Lazar, BostonGlobe.com, 20 Feb. 2023 If flustered, Netanyahu, a wily politician, did not show it. Ishaan Tharoor, Washington Post, 31 Jan. 2023 Obituary: Jiang Zemin, a wily and garrulous politician, amassed political influence that endured long past his formal retirement. Michael Wines, New York Times, 30 Nov. 2022 And thanks to gene transfer and other quirks of evolution, bacteria and viruses are especially wily at adapting. Gemma Tarlach, Discover Magazine, 9 Oct. 2018 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'wily.' 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 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 30 Mar. 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
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