Definition of likely in English:


Line breaks: like¦ly
Pronunciation: /ˈlʌɪkli

adjective (likelier, likeliest)

1Such as well might happen or be true; probable: speculation on the likely effect of opting out [with clause]: it was likely that he would make a televised statement [with infinitive]: sales are likely to drop further
More example sentences
  • It is likely that many Australian homes do not even have a Bible, and those that do, leave it unread.
  • If the legs move at each strain it is likely that the cow will calve without too much trouble.
  • We are still finalising the design but it is likely that these specific premises will be affected.
probable, distinctly possible, to be expected, odds-on, on, possible, credible, plausible, believable, within the bounds of possibility, imaginable;
expected, anticipated, natural, prospective, predictable, predicted, foreseeable, ten to one, liable;
sure, destined, fated;
in the wind, in the air
2Apparently suitable; promising: a likely-looking spot
More example sentences
  • Fay's apparent sweet tooth is likely to be rooted in a problem with blood sugar balance.
  • I was just in a foul mood or something like that, most likely, so accept my humblest apologies.
  • One reason for Essex's likely limitation on imported labour is the high cost of housing.


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Probably: we will most likely go to a bar
More example sentences
  • By the laws of probability, the culprit was most likely an obnoxious American tourist.
  • Maybe even him, if he was strong enough, but more then likely the older females would fight.
  • I explained it was most likely the blonde hair making my skin colour look different in contrast.
informal like enough, (as) like as not


Middle English: from Old Norse líkligr, from líkr (see like1).


In standard British English, when likely is used as an adverb it must be preceded by a submodifier such as very, most, or more, as in we will most likely see him later. In informal US English, use without a submodifier is very common and not regarded as incorrect, as in we will likely see him later.


a likely story

Used to express disbelief of an account or excuse: ‘She’s your lodger? A likely story!’
More example sentences
  • The Timaeus, however, presents itself not as serious cosmology but merely as a likely story, an example of the kind of account that Plato thinks is the right one to give; it is poetic and grandiose in style.
  • Craccum: rehashing news from the Dominion Post on the legal action, and ignoring a likely story about why the University of Auckland was the best in the country - research wise at least.
  • The gentleman told me his name was ‘John’, a likely story, I thought to myself and that it was his ‘sixth day at the gym’.
unlikely, implausible, unbelievable, incredible, untenable, unacceptable, inconceivable

as likely as not

Probably: I won’t take their pills, because as likely as not they’d poison me
More example sentences
  • If you're passing a truck driver on the road today, give them a wave because as likely as not, they'll be mourning the death of a troubadour they called their own, Slim Dusty.
  • But a speeding motorist can kill an innocent child, and as likely as not, they will only face a small fine, points on their licence ó if they have one ó and a short driving ban.
  • References to almost every field of knowledge, from archaeology to zoology, are as likely as not to be wrong.

not likely!

informal Certainly not; I refuse: ‘Are you going home?’ ‘Not likely!’



More example sentences
  • These questions address different aspects of confidence relating to the size of bribes, the possibility of additional requests, and the likeliness of opportunism.
  • A final possibility centres around a likeliness that exercise success here was more due to the presence of fun and enjoyment, than the use of distraction.
  • Yet another problem is the high degree of likeliness that a defendant possibly subject to the death penalty if found guilty will be found guilty.

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