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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, Thomas Malory, Le Morte Darthur, Book XVII, chapter xxij:
      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.
  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. Chambers, chapter VI, The Younger Set:
      “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.
  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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Related terms[edit]