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Alternative forms[edit]


From Scots agley.


  • IPA(key): /əˈɡleɪ/, /əˈɡliː/
    • (file)
  • Rhymes: -eɪ, -iː


agley (comparative more agley, superlative most agley)

  1. (chiefly Scotland) Wrong, awry, askew, amiss, or distortedly.
    • 1932, Rosewell Page, The Iliads of the South: an epic of the War Between the States, Garrett and Massie, p. 165:
      X tells of cavalry; of Sheridan, Hampton and Fitz Lee;
      Of Early’s Valley march, that Sheridan long held agley!
    • 1960, P[elham] G[renville] Wodehouse, “XII and XV”, in Jeeves in the Offing, London: Herbert Jenkins, →OCLC:
      “I don't know if you know the meaning of the word ‘agley’, Kipper, but that, to put it in a nutshell, is the way things have ganged.”
    • 1963, J P Donleavy, A Singular Man, published 1963 (USA), page 125:
      "You bastard."
      "I beg your pardon Miss Martin. What did you say."
      "You heard me."
      All I need. For Miss Martin to go agley on me. Pout, stamp and generally upstage my authority. When they learn about your inner life, wham they take liberties with the outer. Until one is driven to putting on the stone face with creases downturned around the eyes and mouth. Scowl.
    • 2002, Diana Gabaldon, The Fiery Cross, p. 29:
      We meant to sail from Charleston, but things went agley there, and so we’re bound for Portsmouth now, as fast as we can make speed.

Usage notes[edit]

The word was popularised by Robert Burns in his 1785 Scots poems “To a Mouse”, in the much-quoted line “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft agley”. This line is often quoted, and agley is occasionally used in modern English, primarily in variants of this line, such as “our plans have gone agley” or “things went agley”.

See also[edit]


agley (comparative more agley, superlative most agley)

  1. (Scotland) Wrong; askew.
    • 1983, Alasdair Gray, “The Great Bear Cult”, in Every Short Story 1951-2012, Canongate, published 2012, page 57:
      But though the bear in the picture was a disguised man he appeared so naturally calm, so benignly strong, that beside him Pete […] looked comparatively shifty and agley.




agley (not comparable)

  1. Alternative form of aglee