adjective (slyer, slyest)
- 1Having or showing a cunning and deceitful nature: a sly, manipulative womanMore example sentences
cunning, crafty, clever, wily, artful, guileful, tricky, conniving, scheming, devious, designing, deceitful, duplicitous, dishonest, disingenuous, underhand, sneaky, untrustworthy; manipulative, calculating, MachiavellianBritish • informal flyAustralian/New Zealand • informal shonkySouth African • informal slim• archaic subtle• rare carny
- 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.
- 1.1Showing in an insinuating way that one has some secret knowledge that may be harmful or embarrassing: he gave a sly grinMore 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.
on the sly
- In a secretive fashion: she was drinking on the slyMore 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.
- (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.
- 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.’
Middle English (also in the sense 'dexterous'): from Old Norse slœgr 'cunning', originally 'able to strike' from the verb slá; compare with sleight.