Share this entry

silly Line breaks: silly
Pronunciation: /ˈsɪli/

Definition of silly in English:

adjective (sillier, silliest)

1Having or showing a lack of common sense or judgement; absurd and foolish: another of his silly jokes ‘Don’t be silly!’ she said
More example sentences
  • It was silly, extremely foolish and childish of me.
  • Yes, it is all a bit familiar - but, sadly, nowhere near as delightfully absurd and unrepentantly silly as the Ghostbusters movies.
  • We are frail, we are human, we make mistakes, we do foolish things, silly things.
imprudent, thoughtless, rash, reckless, foolhardy, irresponsible;
mad, erratic, unstable, scatterbrained, feather-brained;
flighty, frivolous, giddy, fatuous, inane, immature, childish, puerile, half-baked, empty-headed, half-witted, slow-witted, weak-minded
British informal divvy, dappy
Scottish & Northern English informal glaikit
North American informal dumb-ass, chowderheaded
South African informal dof
West Indian informal dotish
dated tomfool
rash, reckless, foolhardy, irresponsible, inadvisable, injudicious, ill-considered, misguided, inappropriate, illogical, irrational, unreasonable;
informal daft, crazy
1.1Ridiculously trivial or frivolous: he would brood about silly things
More example sentences
  • Brainball may seem like a ridiculously silly game, but it demonstrates how a machine can know something about your emotional state.
  • It's a deeply silly and trivial entertainment cheerfully devoid of any nutritional or calorific value whatever.
  • Ack, it sounds so silly and trivial now, but I was literally shaking with rage at the time.
informal piffling, piddling
North American informal small-bore
1.2 [as complement] Used to convey that an activity or process has been engaged in to such a degree that someone is no longer capable of thinking or acting sensibly: he often drank himself silly his mother worried herself silly over him
More example sentences
  • But she still worried herself silly every time a visit was coming up.
  • He drank himself silly and had to take a cab home.
senseless, insensible, unconscious, stupid, dopey, into a stupor, into oblivion, into senselessness, into a daze;
2 archaic (Especially of a woman, child, or animal) helpless; defenceless.
Example sentences
  • In many of the tales the fairies are tiny, silly, helpless creatures.
  • She is silly, helpless, Irish, very poor, and 28 years of age.
3 [attributive] Cricket Denoting fielding positions very close to the batsman: silly mid-on
More example sentences
  • Illingworth was content with two short legs, silly mid-on, slip and gulley as he wheeled away for less than one run an over.
  • Ian Bell, surrounded by a slip, gully, short leg and captain Ricky Ponting at silly mid-off, became Warne's second lbw victim for eight.
  • Sourav Ganguly, once legendarily dismissive of spinners but now woefully out of form, was dropped by Younis Khan at silly mid-off.

noun (plural sillies)

informal Back to top  
A foolish person (often used as a form of address): come on, silly
More example sentences
  • Quit interrupting the news bulletin in that infuriating manner when you don't actually have any results at all to hand, sillies.
  • Then he says huitlacoche is corn fungus, not a nervous breakdown, sillies.
  • Apparently, 1/3 of American men have not had a checkup in the past year, you sillies.


Late Middle English (in the sense 'deserving of pity or sympathy'): alteration of dialect seely 'happy', later 'innocent, feeble', from a West Germanic base meaning 'luck, happiness'. The sense 'foolish' developed via the stages 'feeble' and 'unsophisticated, ignorant'.

  • A medieval Englishman would have been pleased if you described him as silly—you would have been saying he was happy or lucky. The word is an alteration of earlier seely, from an ancient root meaning ‘luck, happiness’. The Old English sense of seely was ‘happy, fortunate, blessed by God’. This subsequently developed into ‘holy’, then ‘innocent, defenceless, deserving of pity’, at which point, in the later Middle Ages, silly largely took over. Cynical people often regard goodness and simplicity as showing a lack of intelligence, and since the late 16th century the primary sense has been ‘foolish’. In cricket, silly is used in the names of fielding positions such as silly mid-off and silly point, to indicate that the fielder is positioned closer than usual to the batsman. What makes such positions ‘silly’ is that the fielder is required to stand perilously close to the bat. In high summer wealthy and important people deserted Victorian London while Parliament and the law courts were in recess. Since the mid 19th century the months of July and August have been the silly season, when British newspapers often print trivia because of a lack of important news. The first silly billy was either William Frederick, the Duke of Gloucester ( 1776–1834), or King William IV ( 1765–1837). William IV, the predecessor of Queen Victoria, became unpopular when he intervened in politics by imposing the Conservative Robert Peel as prime minister, despite a Whig majority in Parliament.


the silly season

High summer regarded as the season when newspapers often publish trivial material because of a lack of important news.
Example sentences
  • It's summer, the silly season in the news business.
  • Still, it's not all bad: lack of news brings us the silly season.
  • ‘It has been a bit back to the old days this summer when the silly season really meant the silly season,’ he says.



Pronunciation: /ˈsɪlɪli/
Example sentences
  • The custom involved a group ‘simply or sillily and without ceremony or introduction’ walking into people's houses to check if the clock was in good repair.
  • I then realised I actually quite like the police station, with its spiralling steps, and bizarre platforms on sillily long stilts.
  • They were rather sillily teaching them how to do it for each other.


Pronunciation: /ˈsɪlɪnəs/
Example sentences
  • Anyway, it's boringly easy to list the sillinesses of this idea.
  • That the president of failing company would be driven to utter such silliness is of course nothing new.
  • Does that mean they are ‘breaking the rules’ by mixing agendas, silliness and seriousness?

Words that rhyme with silly

Billie, billy, Chile, chilli (US chili), chilly, Dili, dilly, filly, frilly, ghillie, gillie, Gilly, hilly, Lillee, lily, Lyly, papillae, Philly, Piccadilly, piccalilli, skilly, stilly, Tilly, willy-nilly

Definition of silly in:

Share this entry


What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.

Get more from Oxford Dictionaries

Subscribe to remove adverts and access premium resources

Word of the day confidant
Pronunciation: ˈkɒnfɪdant
a person with whom one shares a secret...