Definition of sly in English:

sly

Syllabification: sly
Pronunciation: /slī
 
/

adjective (slyer, slyest)

1Having or showing a cunning and deceitful nature: she had a sly personality
More example sentences
  • Those raised in urban Western understanding of the psychology of the animal kingdom tend to view the fox as a cunning, sly, deceitful animal.
  • She was a rather cunning and sly teenager by nature, accented by her narrow brown eyes and usual smirk.
  • When Chinese describe a person as ‘a monkey’, it means the person is extremely sly or cunning.
Synonyms
1.1(Of a remark, glance, or facial expression) showing in an insinuating way that one has some secret knowledge that may be harmful or embarrassing: he gave a sly grin
More example sentences
  • He couldn't resist what appeared a sly dig at the directors of Dundee, suggesting that by refusing to accept his offer to invest, they were willing to risk their club's financial well-being.
  • He seems touched but then can't resist having a sly dig at himself by pointing out that the really tender thing to have done would have been not to include it on the album.
  • Stan nodded conspiratorially, a sly grin creeping over his face.
Synonyms
1.2(Of an action) surreptitious: a sly sip of water
More example sentences
  • Nelson took a sip of the wine and a sly smile appeared.
Synonyms

Origin

Middle English (also in the sense 'dexterous'): from Old Norse slœgr 'cunning', originally 'able to strike', from the verb slá; compare with sleight.

Phrases

on the sly

In a secretive fashion: she was drinking on the sly
More example sentences
  • Unfortunately, the train to my conference left at 4 AM after a night spent trying to acquire a travel visa on the sly, which meant drinking a lot of vodka.
  • And there still is such a thing as scavenging on the sly - sneaking into dumpsters for the great find.
  • Younger and wirier than his charge, talking a mile a minute and singing during his chores, he nonetheless shows a careworn, weary face, and he drinks on the sly.
Synonyms

Derivatives

slyly

(also slily) adverb
More example sentences
  • There was no small number of secret looks cast slyly between them during the process.
  • It's a quick, cheap, fun read that's entertaining and slyly apolitical.
  • In contrast to the dignified silence from the other side, even slyly whispered accusations are magnified to sound deafeningly crass.

slyness

noun
More example sentences
  • He can pull a prank with craftiness and slyness, so cunningly that even the heroes of war would not be able to spot it.
  • He seems to know all the possible ways one might lie-with craftiness, slyness, deception.
  • ‘The slyness was a horrible moral and personal version of spots,’ he says, ‘and I think I just grew out of it in a strange way.’

More definitions of sly

Definition of sly in:

Get more from Oxford Dictionaries

Subscribe to remove adverts and access premium resources

Word of the day conspicuous
Pronunciation: kənˈspɪkjʊəs
adjective
clearly visible