sul·​ly | \ ˈsə-lē How to pronounce sully (audio) \
sullied; sullying

Definition of sully

 (Entry 1 of 2)

transitive verb

: to make soiled or tarnished : defile


plural sullies

Definition of sully (Entry 2 of 2)

: soil, stain

Synonyms & Antonyms for sully

Synonyms: Verb

Antonyms: Verb

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Did you know?

The spelling of sully has shifted several times since it was sylian in Old English, but its meaning has remained essentially the same: "to soil." In case you are wondering whether sullen (meaning "gloomy or morose") is a relative, the answer is "no." Sullen comes from Latin solus, meaning "alone."

Examples of sully in a Sentence

Verb people that sully our state parks with their trash a once-gleaming marble interior sullied by decades of exposure to cigarette smoke
Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Overcoming a concerted effort by Republicans to sully her record and derail her nomination, Judge Jackson was confirmed on a 53-to-47 vote, with three Republicans joining all 50 members of the Democratic caucus in backing her. New York Times, 7 Apr. 2022 Palin, in her testimony, accused The Times of deliberately fabricating lies to sully her reputation. Aaron Katersky, ABC News, 14 Feb. 2022 Palin, in her testimony, accused The Times of deliberately fabricating information to sully her reputation. Bill Hutchinson, ABC News, 15 Feb. 2022 Seriously, if King wants to sully the reputation of New York with his ridiculous antics, fine. Los Angeles Times, 3 Feb. 2022 Anyway, what would be the point of selling people on a safe space just to sully it with dangers? Alex Shephard, The New Republic, 8 Nov. 2021 On March 16th, Josh Vlasto, a longtime adviser to Cuomo, wrote in a group text that Cohen had approached him about the effort to sully Kim. Ronan Farrow, The New Yorker, 10 Aug. 2021 Unplanned bathroom breaks can sully a pleasant hike. Siena Giljum, Los Angeles Times, 12 July 2021 Plus, if Susie allows even a speck of her outrage to sully her son’s relationship with his dad, then her offense would be worse than your hitting on Debbie. Washington Post, 29 June 2020 See More

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

First Known Use of sully


15th century, in the meaning defined above


1601, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for sully


Middle English *sullien, probably alteration (influenced by Anglo-French suillier, soiller to soil) of sulen to soil, from Old English sylian

Buying Guide

Our Reviews team has selected the best upholstery cleaners.

Learn More About sully

Time Traveler for sully

Time Traveler

The first known use of sully was in the 15th century

See more words from the same century

Listen to Our Podcast About sully

Dictionary Entries Near sully




See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for sully

Last Updated

21 Apr 2022

Cite this Entry

“Sully.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 May. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for sully

Sully biographical name (1)

Sul·​ly | \ ˈsə-lē How to pronounce Sully (audio) , (ˌ)sə-ˈlē, sᵫ-ˈlē \

Definition of Sully

 (Entry 1 of 2)

Duc de 1560–1641 Maximilien de Béthune Baron de Rosny \ də-​rō-​ˈnē How to pronounce Sully (audio) \ French statesman


biographical name (2)
Sul·​ly | \ ˈsə-lē How to pronounce Sully (audio) \

Definition of Sully (Entry 2 of 2)

Thomas 1783–1872 American (English-born) painter

More from Merriam-Webster on sully

Nglish: Translation of sully for Spanish Speakers


Test Your Vocabulary

Name That Food

  • a-light
  • Name these cookies!
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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