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See also: Likely




  • IPA(key): /ˈlaɪkli/
  • Audio (US):(file)
  • Rhymes: -aɪkli

Etymology 1


From Middle English likely, likly, lykly, likliche, from Old English ġelīclīċ (likely) and Old Norse líkligr (likely), both from Proto-Germanic *līkalīkaz, equivalent to like +‎ -ly.



likely (comparative likelier or more likely, superlative likeliest or most likely)

  1. Probable; having a greater-than-even chance of occurring.
    Rain is likely later this afternoon.
  2. (as predicate, followed by to and infinitive) Reasonably to be expected; apparently destined, probable.
    They are likely to become angry with him.
    He is likely to succeed at anything he tries.
    • 2013 April 9, Andrei Lankov, “Stay Cool. Call North Korea’s Bluff.”, in New York Times[1]:
      People who talk about an imminent possibility of war seldom pose this question: What would North Korea’s leadership get from unleashing a war that they are likely to lose in weeks, if not days?
    • 2011 November 3, Chris Bevan, “Rubin Kazan 1 - 0 Tottenham”, in BBC Sport[2]:
      In truth, Tottenham never really looked like taking all three points and this defeat means they face a battle to reach the knockout stages - with their next home game against PAOK Salonika on 30 November likely to prove decisive.
  3. Appropriate, suitable; believable; promising, having a good potential.
    Jones is a likely candidate for management.
    The relationship with social status is a likely topic for investigation.
  4. Plausible; within the realm of credibility.
    not a very likely excuse.
    • 2011 December 19, Kerry Brown, “Kim Jong-il obituary”, in The Guardian[3]:
      The DPRK propagated an extraordinary tale of his birth occurring on Mount Baekdu, one of Korea's most revered sites, being accompanied by shooting stars in the sky. It is more likely that he was born in a small village in the USSR, while his father was serving as a Soviet-backed general during the second world war.
  5. Leading with high probability to some specified outcome.
    a likely recipe for disaster.
  6. (archaic) Attractive; pleasant.
    I found a likely spot under a shady tree for the picnic.
  7. (obsolete) Similar; like; alike.
    • 1596, Edmund Spenser, An Hymne in Honour of Beautie:
      For love is a celestiall harmonie Of likely harts composed of starres concent
  • (as predicate, followed by "to" and infinitive): liable
Derived terms
The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.



likely (plural likelies)

  1. Something or somebody considered likely.

Etymology 2


From Middle English likely, likly, lykly, likliche, from Old English ġelīclīċe (equally) and Old Norse líkliga, glíkliga (likely), both from Proto-Germanic *līkalīka, equivalent to like +‎ -ly.



likely (comparative more likely, superlative most likely) (US)

  1. (obsolete) Similarly.
  2. Probably.
    Likely he’ll win the election in this economy.
    • 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[4], Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society, →ISSN, →OCLC, archived from the original on 14 June 2018:
      Dismounting on the sidewalk, their helmets still on, they fall into a lengthy conversation. Their dialogue is known only to them. But there is something the men themselves likely don’t know: About a mile away, from a windowless room, two other men are watching them.
Usage notes
  • The adverb is more common in US English than in British English.
  • As an adverb, likely is often preceded by a modifier such as most or quite.