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Alternative forms[edit]


From Middle English oylei, equivalent to oil +‎ -y. Compare German ölig (oily), Swedish oljig (oily).


  • IPA(key): /ˈɔɪli/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ɔɪli


oily (comparative oilier, superlative oiliest)

  1. Relating to or resembling oil.
  2. Covered with or containing oil.
    • 1853, Herman Melville, “Bartleby, the Scrivener,”[1]
      His clothes were apt to look oily and smell of eating-houses.
    • 1917, Robert Hichens, In the Wilderness, Chapter ,[2]
      [] overdressed young men of enigmatic appearance, with oily thick hair, shifty eyes, and hands covered with cheap rings, swaggered about smoking cigarettes and talking in loud, ostentatious voices.
  3. (figuratively) Excessively friendly or polite but insincere.
    • c. 1603–1606, William Shakespeare, “The Tragedie of King Lear”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies [] (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, OCLC 606515358, [Act I, scene i]:
      [] for I want that glib and oily art
      To speak and purpose not, since what I well intend,
      I’ll do’t before I speak []
    • 1846 October 1 – 1848 April 1, Charles Dickens, chapter 22, in Dombey and Son, London: Bradbury and Evans, [], published 1848, OCLC 145080417:
      Mr Carker the Manager, sly of manner, sharp of tooth, soft of foot, watchful of eye, oily of tongue, cruel of heart, nice of habit, sat with a dainty steadfastness and patience at his work, as if he were waiting at a mouse’s hole.
    • 1914, Algernon Blackwood, “The Damned,”[3]
      ‘He had an inflexible will beneath all that oily kindness which passed for spiritual []

Derived terms[edit]



oily (plural oilies)

  1. A marble with an oily lustre.
    • 1998, Joanna Cole, Stephanie Calmenson, Michael Street, Marbles: 101 ways to play
      Lustered (also called lusters, rainbows, oilies, and pearls).
    • 2001, Paul Webley, The economic psychology of everyday life (page 39)
      But marbles are not only used to play games: they are also traded. In this market, the value of the different kinds of marbles (oilies, emperors, etc.) is determined by local supply and demand and not by the price of the marbles []
  2. (in the plural, informal) Oilskins. (waterproof garment)