Definition of surly in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈsəːli/

adjective (surlier, surliest)

Bad-tempered and unfriendly: the porter left with a surly expression
More example sentences
  • Marjorie Campbell plays a sour and surly chambermaid that scores laughs galore.
  • The day-time guard at the entrance to our village is the most grumpy and surly man.
  • Instead of the often surly and obsessed golfer with a dodgy sense of humour a more humble and accessible golfer came to light.
bad-tempered, ill-natured, grumpy, glum, crotchety, prickly, cantankerous, irascible, testy, ill-tempered, short-tempered, ungracious, splenetic, choleric, dyspeptic, bilious, crusty, abrupt, brusque, curt, gruff, blunt, churlish, ill-humoured, crabbed, crabby, uncivil, morose, dour, sullen, sulky, moody, moping, sour, unfriendly, unpleasant, scowling, unsmiling;
humourless, disrespectful
informal chippy, grouchy



Pronunciation: /ˈsəːlɪli/
Example sentences
  • The crowd surlily begins to look for hats, shoes and coat-belts torn off in the scrimmage.
  • He hesitated as if about to say something sharp, then surlily he agreed.


Pronunciation: /ˈsəːlɪnəs/
Example sentences
  • All this and some sort of subway malfunction that caused my homebound train to be completely packed with surly commuters who started picking fights with each other just to express their surliness.
  • I had been slow to relinquish the last of my English currency and I was unprepared for the extreme surliness of the official who glowered at me with undisguised aggression as I handed him my passport.
  • It can be taken for granted that reasons abound for self-pity, anger, fear, ill will, surliness and general unhappiness.


Mid 16th century (in the sense 'lordly, haughty, arrogant'): alteration of obsolete sirly (see sir, -ly1).

  • Surly was originally sirly, a clue to its early meaning. In medieval times sirly meant ‘in the manner of a sir’ or lord, and surly was originally used in the sense ‘lordly, haughty, arrogant’. The ‘bad-tempered and unfriendly’ meaning emerged late in the 16th century.

Words that rhyme with surly

Burghley, Burley, burly, curly, early, girlie, hurley, hurly-burly, pearly, Shirley, swirly, twirly

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: surly

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