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From Middle English dedly, dedlych, dedlich, from Old English dēadlīċ (adj), corresponding to dead +‎ -ly. Cognate with Dutch dodelijk, German tödlich.

The adverb is from Middle English dedliche, from Old English dēadlīċe (adverb), from the adjective.



deadly (comparative deadlier or more deadly, superlative deadliest or most deadly)

  1. (obsolete) Subject to death; mortal.
    • 1485, Sir Thomas Malory, chapter xxij, in Le Morte Darthur, book XVII:
      And whan he cam to the sacrament of the masse / and had done / anone he called Galahad and sayd to hym come forthe the seruaunt of Ihesu cryst and thou shalt see that thou hast moche desyred to see / & thenne he beganne to tremble ryght hard / whan the dedely flesshe beganne to beholde the spyrytuel thynges
    • Wyclif Bible, Romans i. 23
      The image of a deadly man.
  2. Causing death; lethal.
    • 1949 George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four, Part Two, Chapter 9, [1]
      [] others search for new and deadlier gases, or for soluble poisons capable of being produced in such quantities as to destroy the vegetation of whole continents []
  3. Aiming or willing to destroy; implacable; desperately hostile.
    deadly enemies
  4. (by extension) Very accurate (of aiming with a bow, firearm, etc.).
    • 1879, R[ichard] J[efferies], chapter 1, in The Amateur Poacher, London: Smith, Elder, & Co., [], OCLC 752825175, page 035:
      But then I had the [massive] flintlock by me for protection. ¶ [] The linen-press and a chest on the top of it formed, however, a very good gun-carriage; and, thus mounted, aim could be taken out of the window [], and a 'bead' could be drawn upon Molly, the dairymaid, kissing the fogger behind the hedge, little dreaming that the deadly tube was levelled at them.
  5. (informal) Very boring.
    • 1907, Robert William Chambers, chapter VI, in The Younger Set (Project Gutenberg; EBook #14852), New York, N.Y.: D. Appleton & Company, published 1 February 2005 (Project Gutenberg version), OCLC 24962326:
      “I don't mean all of your friends—only a small proportion—which, however, connects your circle with that deadly, idle, brainless bunch—the insolent chatterers at the opera, the gorged dowagers, the worn-out, passionless men, the enervated matrons of the summer capital, []!”
    • 2009, Gay Lumsden, ‎Donald Lumsden, ‎Carolyn Wiethoff, Communicating in Groups and Teams: Sharing Leadership (page 324)
      Students, of course, know the difference between a deadly lecture and a stimulating one. An excellent lecturer who maintains a high level of interaction with the audience stimulates thinking and learning.
  6. (informal) Excellent, awesome, cool.

Derived terms[edit]



deadly (comparative more deadly, superlative most deadly)

  1. (obsolete) Fatally, mortally.
  2. In a way which suggests death.
    Her face suddenly became deadly white.
  3. Extremely.
    deadly weary — Orrery.
    so deadly cunning a man — Arbuthnot.

Derived terms[edit]


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout#Translations.

Related terms[edit]