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From Middle English fayrly, fayrely, vayrliche, equivalent to fair +‎ -ly.


  • (UK) IPA(key): /ˈfɛə(ɹ).li/
  • (US) IPA(key): /ˈfɛɹ.li/
    • Audio (US):(file)
  • Hyphenation: fair‧ly
  • Rhymes: -ɛə(ɹ)li



fairly (comparative more fairly, superlative most fairly)

  1. (manner) In a fair manner; fair; not biased or skewed or favouring a certain party
    Synonyms: justly, frankly
    A jury is expected to ensure that the accused is fairly judged.
  2. Favorably; auspiciously; commodiously.
    a town fairly situated for foreign trade
  3. Honestly; properly.
    Consumer laws aim to have consumers fairly treated.
    • 1859, Alexander Easton, “Rules adopted by the Sixth Avenue Railway, N. Y.”, in A Practical Treatise on Street or Horse-Power Railways, page 108:
      10. You will be civil and attentive to passengers, giving proper assistance to ladies and children getting in or out, and never start the car before passengers are fairly received or landed.
    • 1879, R[ichard] J[efferies], chapter 1, in The Amateur Poacher, London: Smith, Elder, & Co., [], →OCLC:
      They burned the old gun that used to stand in the dark corner up in the garret, close to the stuffed fox that always grinned so fiercely. Perhaps the reason why he seemed in such a ghastly rage was that he did not come by his death fairly. Otherwise his pelt would not have been so perfect. And why else was he put away up there out of sight?—and so magnificent a brush as he had too. [].
  4. Softly; quietly; gently.
  5. (degree) Partly, not fully; somewhat.
    Synonyms: somewhat, pretty, quite, somewhat
    The weather this weekend will be fairly dry.
    • 1913, Joseph C[rosby] Lincoln, chapter III, in Mr. Pratt’s Patients, New York, N.Y., London: D[aniel] Appleton and Company, →OCLC:
      My hopes wa'n't disappointed. I never saw clams thicker than they was along them inshore flats. I filled my dreener in no time, and then it come to me that 'twouldn't be a bad idee to get a lot more, take 'em with me to Wellmouth, and peddle 'em out. Clams was fairly scarce over that side of the bay and ought to fetch a fair price.
    • 2013 August 3, “Yesterday’s fuel”, in The Economist, volume 408, number 8847:
      The dawn of the oil age was fairly recent. Although the stuff was used to waterproof boats in the Middle East 6,000 years ago, extracting it in earnest began only in 1859 after an oil strike in Pennsylvania. The first barrels of crude fetched $18 (around $450 at today’s prices). It was used to make kerosene, the main fuel for artificial lighting after overfishing led to a shortage of whale blubber.
  6. (dated) Almost; practically.
    • 1834, Arthur Courtenay, Autobiography and Letters of Arthur Courtenay, page 36:
      We quadrilled, waltzed, and conversed, in all of which my clever partner excelled; and her charms, combined with the excellent champagne I imbibed, fairly dazzled my imagination.
    • 1863, Sheridan Le Fanu, The House by the Churchyard:
      Betty grew so nervous and frightened, that she fairly bawled to her colleague, Moggy, and told her she would not stay in the room unless she sat up all night with her.
  7. (archaic) Of handwriting: neatly and legibly.
    • 1653, John Gauden, Hieraspistes, page 248:
      That Pen, which now writes blottingly, might be well made at first, and will write fairly again []
    • 1726 October 28, [Jonathan Swift], “The Author Permitted to See the Grand Academy of Lagado. []”, in Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World. [] [Gulliver’s Travels], volume II, London: [] Benj[amin] Motte, [], →OCLC, part III (A Voyage to Laputa, Balnibarbi, Glubbdubdribb, Luggnagg, and Japan), page 78:
      I was at the Mathematical School, where the Maſter taught his Pupils after a Method ſcarce imaginable to us in Europe. The Propoſition and Demonſtration were fairly written on a thin Wafer, with Ink compoſed of a Cephalick Tincture. This the Student was to ſwallow upon a faſting Stomach, and for three days following eat nothing but Bread and Water. As the Wafer digeſted, the Tincture mounted to his Brain, bearing the Propoſition along with it.

Usage notes

  • This is a non-descriptive qualifier, similar to quite and rather and somewhat, and some other adverbs of degree. Used where a plain adjective needs to be modified, but cannot be qualified. When spoken, the meaning can vary with the tone of voice and stress. He was fairly big can mean anything from "not exactly small" to "almost huge".

Derived terms