From Middle English worldly, worldlich, from Old English woruldlīċ, worldlīċ, weoroldlīċ (worldly; earthly; temporal; mundane; secular), from Proto-Germanic *weraldilīkaz, equivalent to world +‎ -ly. Cognate with Dutch wereldlijk (worldly; secular), German Low German weltlik (worldly), German weltlich (worldly), Danish verdslig (worldly), Swedish världslig (worldly), Icelandic veraldlegur (worldly; secular).


  • IPA(key): /ˈwɜː(ɹ)ldli/
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worldly (comparative worldlier or more worldly, superlative worldliest or most worldly)

  1. Concerned with human or earthly matters, physical as opposed to spiritual.
    • 1868, Louisa May Alcott, Little Women, Part Two, Chapter Twenty-four: Gossip,
      These attributes, in spite of poverty and the strict integrity which shut him out from the more worldly successes, attracted to him many admirable persons, as naturally as sweet herbs draw bees, and as naturally he gave them the honey into which fifty years of hard experience had distilled no bitter drop.
    • c. 1883-1896, Vyasa, Kisari Mohan Ganguli (translator), The Mahabharata, Book 1: Adi Parva, Section LXXXV,
      Thirst of enjoyment, therefore, should be given up. Indeed, true happiness belongeth to them that have cast off their thirst for worldly objects--a thirst which is difficult to be thrown off by the wicked and the sinful, which faileth not with the failing life, and which is truly the fatal disease of man.
    • 1889, Leo Tolstoy, Huntington Smith (translator), My Religion, Chapter VIII,
      The conviction that my personal, worldly life was something real and good constituted the misunderstanding, the obstacle, that prevented me from comprehending Jesus doctrine.
    • 1910, G. K. Chesterton, What's Wrong with the World, Chapter 1, part 3,
      We have actually contrived to invent a new kind of hypocrite. The old hypocrite, Tartuffe or Pecksniff, was a man whose aims were really worldly and practical, while he pretended that they were religious. The new hypocrite is one whose aims are really religious, while he pretends that they are worldly and practical.
    Synonyms: material, mundane, sublunar
    Antonyms: otherworldly, spiritual
  2. Concerned with secular rather than sacred matters.
    Synonyms: lay, profane
    Antonyms: clerical, religious, sacred
  3. Sophisticated, especially because of surfeit; versed in the ways of the world.
    • 2016 January 24, Les Chappell, “TV: Review: The Simpsons (Classic), “Natural Born Kissers” (season nine, episode 25, originally aired 05/17/1998)”, in The Onion AV Club[1]:
      Homer and Marge have to try to explain things to children who are too worldly to fall for most excuses, the explanation trails off, and what could be a pleasant family outing to solve it all turns out to be yet another excuse for self-involvement when one public humiliation doesn’t outweigh the joys of getting busy in a windmill.
    Synonyms: sophisticated, street-smart
    Antonym: naive



worldly (comparative more worldly, superlative most worldly)

  1. In a worldly manner.

Derived termsEdit