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Etymology 1Edit

From Middle English lyvely, lifly, from Old English līflīċ (living, lively, long-lived, necessary to life, vital), equivalent to life +‎ -ly. Cognate with Scots lively, lifely (of or pertaining to life, vital, living, life-like). Doublet of lifely.

Alternative formsEdit


lively (comparative livelier, superlative liveliest)

  1. Full of life; energetic.
    • 1671, John Milton, Samson Agonistes
      But wherefore comes old Manoa in such haste, / With youthful steps? Much livelier than erewhile / He seems.
    • 1918, W. B. Maxwell, chapter 7, in The Mirror and the Lamp:
      St. Bede's at this period of its history was perhaps the poorest and most miserable parish in the East End of London. Close-packed, crushed by the buttressed height of the railway viaduct, rendered airless by huge walls of factories, it at once banished lively interest from a stranger's mind and left only a dull oppression of the spirit.
    • 2011 September 29, Jon Smith, “Tottenham 3-1 Shamrock Rovers”, in BBC Sport:
      But with the lively Dos Santos pulling the strings behind strikers Pavlyuchenko and Defoe, Spurs controlled the first half without finding the breakthrough their dominance deserved.
  2. Bright; vivid; glowing; strong; vigorous.
    • 1704, Isaac Newton, Opticks: Or, A Treatise of the Reflections, Refractions, Inflections and Colours of Light
      The colours of the prism are manifestly more full, intense, and lively that those of natural bodies.
    • 1688, Robert South, Sacramental Preparation: Set forth in a Sermon on Matthew 5, 12.
      His faith must be not only living, but lively too.
  3. (archaic) Endowed with or manifesting life; living.
    • c. 1600, Philemon Holland
      chaplets of gold and silver resembling lively flowers and leaves
  4. (archaic) Representing life; lifelike.
  5. (archaic) Airy; animated; spirited.
  6. (of beer) Fizzy; foamy; tending to produce a large head in the glass.
Usage notesEdit
  • Nouns to which "lively" is often applied: person, character, lady, woman, man, audience, personality, art, guide, activity, game, lesson, introduction, discussion, debate, writing, image, town, city, village, etc.
Derived termsEdit


lively (plural livelies)

  1. (nautical, informal) Term of address.

Etymology 2Edit

From Middle English lyvely, lifly, from Old English līflīċe, equivalent to life +‎ -ly.


lively (comparative more lively, superlative most lively)

  1. Vigorously.
  2. Vibrantly, vividly.
  3. (obsolete) In a lifelike manner.