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Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English derkly, derkely, derkliche, derkeliche; equivalent to dark +‎ -ly. Compare Old English deorclīċe, a parallel formation.


darkly (comparative darklier or more darkly, superlative darkliest or most darkly)

  1. With insufficient light for easy discernment or comprehension
    I could make out his image darkly.
    • 1611, The Holy Bible, [] (King James Version), London: [] Robert Barker, [], →OCLC, 1 Corinthians 1:12:
      For now we ſee through a glaſſe darkley: but then face to face: now I know in part, but then ſhall I know euen as alſo I am knowen.
    • 1930, Ivan Lukash, chapter VIII, in Natalie Duddington, transl., The Flames of Moscow: Translated from the Russian, London: Peter Davies, →OCLC, page 92:
      With his hands behind his back he walked through the echoing rooms. In the reddish mist his shadow flitted darkly across the mirrors on the walls.
  2. With a dark appearance
    Synonyms: blackly, sably
    • 1846, R[obert] S[tephen] Hawker, “The Wreck”, in Echoes from Old Cornwall, London: Joseph Masters, [], →OCLC, stanza X, page 76:
      And still when loudliest howls the storm, / And darkliest lowers his native sky, / The king's fierce soul is in that form, / The warrior's spirit threatens nigh!
    • 1906 October 4, “Light Colors for Machine Tools”, in Charles Kirchhoff, Geo[rge] W. Cope, A. I. Findley, editors, The Iron Age, volume LXXVIII, New York, N.Y.: David Williams Company [], →OCLC, page 877, column 1:
      Darkly painted machinery takes a great deal of light out of a shop; the rays seem to be absorbed into the somber pigments.
    • 1998, John Minch, “Geology Roadlog”, in Lowell Lindsay, William G. Hample, editors, Geology and Geothermal Resources of the Imperial and Mexicali Valleys (San Diego Association of Geologists – Annual Field Trip Guides), San Diego, Calif.: San Diego Association of Geologists, →ISBN, pages 30–31:
      Cerro Colorado is composed of granitic rocks covered with a dark-colored desert varnish. The Sierra Cucapa are a lighter reddish-brown and lie in the background on the far side of Laguna Salada. They are also covered with a patina of desert varnish but not as darkly as the surface of Cerro Colorado. [] A minor weathering feature of the desert is a thin, shiny, reddish-brown to blackish coating called desert varnish that occurs on some desert rocks.
    • 2016, Yehiel Yeshaia Trunk, chapter 21, in Anna Clarke, transl., edited by Piotr J. Wróbel and Robert M. Shapiro, Poyln: My Life within Jewish Life in Poland, Sketches and Images, Toronto, Ont., Buffalo, N.Y.: University of Toronto Press, →ISBN, page 149:
      He saw how the candlesticks shone darkly in the vicinity of the diamond flames in Shevele's ears and on her silk dress collar.
  3. (figuratively) In a manner which is not readily visible or noticeable; inconspicuously
    Synonyms: anonymously, obscurely, unapparently, unnoticeably
    • 1964, Stanley Woodward, Paper Tiger: An Old Sportswriter's Reminiscences of People, Newspapers, War and Work , chapter 3, page 33 of the 2007 University of Nebraska Press paperback edition:
      Set defenses permitted a coach to plan an attack with scant worry as to where he would find the offensive men. So our Tom Reilly schemed darkly and came up with the attack which pried apart the Brown Bowlers. His scheme was to double team every man in the defensive line by employing one back as an eighth lineman and spreading the enemy further by posting a wingback outside the strong end of an unbalanced line which had five men on this side of center.
  4. (figuratively) In a manner which retards or prevents discernment; clandestinely
    Synonyms: covertly, furtively, inconspicuously, secretly, stealthily, surreptitiously
    • 1907, Cyril Ranger Gull as Guy Thorne, The Serf , chapter 5:
      His secret wooing of the Norman lady who was so proud and stately was very dear to him, and the romance of it pleased him even more than the mere material joys he hoped some day to gain from it. Proud as she was, womanlike she at least deigned to listen to him, and his crafty brain schemed darkly to take opportunity as it came, and make her his own by treachery.
  5. (figuratively) In a manner which is difficult to understand, or which retards or prevents understanding; incomprehensibly
    Synonyms: fathomlessly, inscrutably, mysteriously, obscurely, vaguely
    • 1651, Peter Bulkeley [i.e., Peter Bulkley], “The Second Difference, that the One was More Dark, the Other Gives Clearer Light”, in The Gospel-covenant; or, The Covenant of Grace Opened. [], 2nd enlarged and corrected edition, London: Printed by Matthew Simmons, [], →OCLC, page 168:
      Secondly, The Covenant was then revealed more darkly and obſcurely, but now the diſpenſation of it, is more cleare and evident: the light is now marvellous, it is as the Sunne ſhining at noone-day. [] Though it was revealed before, yet it was but darkly, but now it is revealed more clearly ſince the coming of our Saviour Chriſt; []
    • 1850, [Alfred, Lord Tennyson], In Memoriam, London: Edward Moxon, [], →OCLC, Canto CXXVII, page 199:
      Strange friend, past, present, and to be, / Loved deeplier, darklier understood; / Behold I dream a dream of good / And mingle all the world with thee.
  6. (figuratively) In a manner which tends to produce uncertainty or confusion; bewilderingly
    Synonyms: bafflingly, perplexingly, puzzlingly
    • 1824, Charles Robert Maturin, The Albigenses , chapter 16:
      Here, as Genevieve sat musing, in apparent slumber, on her situation of peril, and her hope of liberty, her sentinels, who had hitherto walked at a surly distance from her, now chanced to pass nearer; and she heard one of them say, “She sleeps, thou need'st not whisper; -I tell thee it must be done to-night.” “What must be done?” said his companion, “for hitherto thou hast spoken thy purpose darkly.”—“The queen must be removed this night,” said the other. “Here have been missives from the bishop, who, amid the thunders of the siege, found leisure to receive and answer the letters of King Philip, touching the matter of the queen's thraldom, and to send the order thou wottest of, and which must be suddenly obeyed.”
  7. (figuratively) In a manner which produces an inward conviction of future misfortune; ominously
    Synonyms: forebodingly, threateningly
  8. (figuratively) In a morbid manner; morbidly, sinisterly
    a darkly comic dystopian drama
    • 1814, Lord Byron, “Canto I”, in The Corsair, a Tale, London: [] Thomas Davison, [], for John Murray, [], →OCLC, stanza IX, page 12, lines 225–228:
      There was a laughing Devil in his sneer, / That raised emotions both of rage and fear; / And where his frown of hatred darkly fell, / Hope withering fled—and Mercy sighed farewell!
    • 2018 February, Robert Draper, “They are Watching You—and Everything Else on the Planet: Technology and Our Increasing Demand for Security have Put Us All under Surveillance. Is Privacy Becoming just a Memory?”, in National Geographic[1], Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society, →ISSN, →OCLC, archived from the original on 14 June 2018:
      By visible evidence, this Saturday morning is a comparatively placid one. Earlier in the week a young man had died after being stabbed in a flat, and from the overpass at Archway Road, darkly referred to as “suicide bridge,” another man had jumped to his death.

Etymology 2[edit]

From Middle English derkely, equivalent to dark +‎ -ly.


darkly (comparative darklier or more darkly, superlative darkliest or most darkly)

  1. (chiefly poetic) Relating to darkness or obscurity.
    A Scanner Darkly
    • 1864, John Greet, Poems, page 8:
      Earth's noblest sons are schooled in hut and cell,
      As purest gems in darkliest caverns dwell.
    • 1919, Ernest Christopher Dowson, Arthur Symons, The Poems of Ernest Dowson, page 81:
      A clue of lilies was I bid to find,
      Where the green alleys most obscurely wind;
      Where tall oaks darkliest canopy o'erhead,
      And moss and violet make the softest bed; []