Open main menu



From Middle English seekly, sekely, siklich, sekeliche, equivalent to sick +‎ -ly. Possibly a modification of Old English sīcle (sickly) and/or derived from Old Norse sjúkligr (sickly). Cognate with Dutch ziekelijk, Middle High German siechlich, Danish sygelig, Swedish sjuklig, Icelandic sjúklegur.



sickly (comparative sicklier, superlative sickliest)

  1. Frequently ill; often in poor health; given to becoming ill.
    a sickly child
  2. Having the appearance of sickness or ill health; appearing ill, infirm or unhealthy; pale or wan.
    a sickly plant
    • Dryden
      The moon grows sickly at the sight of day.
  3. Weak; faint; suggesting unhappiness.
    a sickly smile
  4. Somewhat sick; disposed to illness; attended with disease.
    • Shakespeare
      This physic but prolongs thy sickly days.
  5. Tending to produce disease; unwholesome.
    a sickly autumn; a sickly climate
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Cowper to this entry?)
  6. Tending to produce nausea; sickening.
    a sickly smell; sickly sentimentality
  7. Overly sweet.

Derived termsEdit



sickly (third-person singular simple present sicklies, present participle sicklying, simple past and past participle sicklied)

  1. (transitive) To make sickly.
    • Shakespeare
      Sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought.
    • 1840, S. M. Heaton, George Heaton, Thoughts on the Litany, by a naval officer's orphan daughter (page 58)
      [] a cancer gnawing at the root of happiness, defeating every aim at permanent good in this world, and sicklying all sublunary joys []
    • 1871, Gail Hamilton, Country living and country thinking (page 109)
      He evidently thinks the sweet little innocents never heard or thought of such a thing before, and would go on burying their curly heads in books, and sicklying their rosy faces with "the pale cast of thought" till the end of time []


sickly (comparative more sickly, superlative most sickly)

  1. In a sick manner.
    • 2010, Rowan Somerville, The End of Sleep (page 66)
      The creaseless horizontal face of the giant smiled sickly, leering.