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Old English dēadlīċ (adj.), dēadlīċe (adv.), corresponding to dead +‎ -ly. Cognate with Dutch dodelijk, German tödlich.



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, Richard Jefferies, The Amateur Poacher, chapter1:
      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 W[illiam] Chambers, “chapter VI”, in The Younger Set (Project Gutenberg; EBook #14852), New York, N.Y.: A. L. Burt Company, published 1 February 2005 (Project Gutenberg version), OCLC 4241346:
      “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, []!”
  6. (informal) Excellent, awesome, cool.


Derived terms[edit]


deadly ‎(comparative more deadly, superlative most deadly)

  1. (obsolete) Fatally, mortally.
    • 1603, John Florio, translating Michel de Montaigne, Essayes, London: Edward Blount, OCLC 946730821, Folio Society, 2006, p.16:
      perceiving himselfe deadly wounded by a shot received in his body, being by his men perswaded to come off and retire himselfe from out the throng, answered, he would not now so neere his end, begin to turn his face from his enemie
  2. In a way which suggests death.
    Her face suddenly became deadly white.
  3. Extremely.
    deadly weary — Orrery.
    so deadly cunning a man — Arbuthnot.


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