Definition of sickly in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈsɪkli/

adjective (sicklier, sickliest)

1Often ill; in poor health: she was a thin, sickly child
More example sentences
  • The predator weeds out the weak and the sickly (those incapable of participation).
  • In history books, one can find descriptions of this Bulgarian king as ‘weak, sickly, meek and a poor statesman’.
  • King was a sickly child, once bedridden for a year, and at the age of four he one day returned home silently after playing with a friend and crawled into bed.
unhealthy, in poor health, chronically ill, often ill, always ill;
1.1(Of a person’s complexion or expression) indicative of poor health: his usual sickly pallor
More example sentences
  • If there was anything to be salvaged from the situation, it might've been said to have been worth it for the sickly expression on Rupert's face.
  • Not only that, but his formerly vibrant face was now marred by a sickly pallor and shadows under his eyes.
  • Her sun baked skin had deteriorated to a grey, sickly pallor and her eyes had lost its bright sparkle.
1.2 literary (Of a place or climate) causing or characterized by unhealthiness: a sickly vaporous swamp
More example sentences
  • The only sort of eye to be found in Dunham's paintings puts in an appearance in Beautiful Dirt Valley: the disembodied eye of heaven hovering in a sickly sky.
  • Aaron went back to his sickly field and farmhouse.
  • The yellow street lights caused the world to glow sickly as he moved through the downtown South District.
2(Of a flavour, smell, colour, etc.) unpleasant in a way that induces discomfort or nausea: the walls were painted a sickly green she liked her coffee sweet and sickly
More example sentences
  • The walls were the same sickly colour, the smell was the same of dense human aromas, and my feelings of determination and acceptance were one and the same.
  • I entered the school and was met by the sweet, sickly smell of flowers and the dead.
  • The atmosphere seemed stifling, the sweet, sickly smell in the air was unbearable.
bilious, nauseating, distasteful, unattractive;
lurid, garish, loud, violent
2.1Excessively sentimental or mawkish: a sickly fable of delicate young lovers
More example sentences
  • Your Silent Nights and Joy to the Worlds manage to be special and festive without first being coated with a cubic kilometre of sickly sentimentality.
  • Those with an aversion to sickly sentiment should look away now.
  • It displays the essence of Chopin's music that surely Fokine desired and rescues it from the sickly sentiment and yards of tulle that Les Sylphides usually heralds.
sentimental, over-sentimental, overemotional, mawkish, cloying, sugary, syrupy, saccharine, sickening, nauseating, maudlin, lachrymose, banal, trite;
British  twee
British informal soppy
North American informal cornball, sappy, hokey, three-hanky



Pronunciation: /ˈsɪklɪnəs/
Example sentences
  • What is inherited is not the sickness but sickliness: the lack of strength to resist the danger of infections, etc., the broken resistance; morally speaking, resignation and meekness in face of the enemy.
  • Loving my children seemed to solve any problem they had - even discovering Kyle had cystic fibrosis at the age of seven - this was the reason for his low weight and sickliness as a baby.
  • It was well worth venturing out in spite of my lingering sickliness.


Late Middle English: probably suggested by Old Norse sjúkligr.

Words that rhyme with sickly


For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: sick¦ly

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