sickly

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English[edit]

Etymology[edit]

From Middle English seekly, sekely, siklich, sekeliche, equivalent to sick +‎ -ly. Possibly a modification of Old English sīcle (sickly) and/or derived from Old Norse sjúkligr (sickly). Cognate with Dutch ziekelijk, Middle High German siechlich, Danish sygelig, Swedish sjuklig, Icelandic sjúklegur.

Pronunciation[edit]

  • IPA(key): /ˈsɪkli/
  • (file)

Adjective[edit]

sickly (comparative sicklier, superlative sickliest)

  1. Frequently ill or in poor health.
    a sickly child
    • 1759, Tobias Smollett, letter dated 16 March, 1759, in James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson, London: Charles Dilly, 1791, Volume 1, p. 190,[1]
      [...] the boy is a sickly lad, of a delicate frame, and particularly subject to a malady in his throat, which renders him very unfit for his Majesty’s service.
    • 1813 January 27, [Jane Austen], chapter 14, in Pride and Prejudice, volume (please specify |volume=I to III), London: [] [George Sidney] for T[homas] Egerton [], OCLC 38659585, page 151:
      She is unfortunately of a sickly constitution, which has prevented her making that progress in many accomplishments which she could not otherwise have failed of;
    • 1982, Anne Tyler, Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, New York: Ballantine, 2008, Chapter 1, p. 4,[2]
      [...] the sharp-scented bottle of crystals that sickly Cousin Bertha had carried to ward off fainting spells.
  2. Not in good health; (somewhat) sick.
  3. (of a plant) Characterized by poor or unhealthy growth.
    • 1931, Pearl S. Buck, The Good Earth, New York: Modern Library, 1944, Chapter 27, p. 236,[6]
      [...] the good wheat on this land had turned sickly and yellow.
    • 1962, Rachel Carson, Silent Spring, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, Chapter 6, p. 79,[7]
      With the aid of the marigolds the roses flourished; in the control beds they were sickly and drooping.
  4. Appearing ill, infirm or unhealthy; giving the appearance of illness.
    a sickly pallor
    • 1782, Frances Burney, Cecilia, London: T. Payne and Son, and T. Cadell, Volume 1, Book 1, Chapter 9, p. 121,[8]
      [...] she exhibited a countenance so wretched, and a complection so sickly, that Cecilia was impressed with horror at the sight.
    • 1791, Elizabeth Inchbald, A Simple Story, London: G.G.J. and J. Robinson, Volume 3, Chapter 12, p. 161-162,[9]
      [...] he saw him arrive with his usual florid appearance: had he come pale and sickly, Sandford had been kind to him; but in apparent good health and spirits, he could not form his mouth to tell him he was “glad to see him.”
    • 1961, Joseph Heller, Catch-22, New York: Dell, Chapter 39,[10]
      Yossarian [...] could not wipe from his mind the excruciating image of the barefoot boy with sickly cheeks [...]
  5. Shedding a relatively small amount of light; (of light) not very bright.
    Synonyms: faint, pale, wan
    • 1665, John Dryden, The Indian Emperour, London: H. Herringman, 1667, Act II, p. 17,[11]
      The Moon grows sickly at the sight of day.
    • 1757, Thomas Gray, Odes, Dublin: G. Faulkner and J. Rudd, p. 5,[12]
      Night, and all her sickly dews,
      Her Spectres wan, and Birds of boding cry,
    • 1849, Currer Bell [pseudonym; Charlotte Brontë], chapter 5, in Shirley. A Tale. [], volume (please specify |volume=I, II, or III), London: Smith, Elder and Co., [], OCLC 84390265:
      Mr. Moore haunted his mill, his mill-yard, his dye-house, and his warehouse till the sickly dawn strengthened into day.
    • 1870–1871, Mark Twain [pseudonym; Samuel Langhorne Clemens], chapter 32, in Roughing It, Hartford, Conn.: American Publishing Company [et al.], published 1872, OCLC 275036, page 235:
      [The match] lit, burned blue and sickly, and then budded into a robust flame.
    • 2006, Sarah Waters, The Night Watch, London: Virago, “1944,” section 2, p. 226,[13]
      Duncan saw the men through a haze of wire and cigarette smoke and sickly, artificial light;
  6. Lacking intensity or vigour.
    Synonyms: faint, feeble, insipid, weak
    a sickly smile
    • 1730, James Thomson, The Tragedy of Sophonisba, London: A. Millar, Act II, Scene 1, p. 19,[14]
      What man of soul would [...] run,
      Day after day, the still-returning round
      Of life’s mean offices, and sickly joys;
      But in compassion to mankind?
    • 1779, Hannah More, The Fatal Falsehood, London: T. Cadell, Act II, p. 27,[15]
      [...] my credulous heart
      [...] fondly loves to cherish
      The feeble glimmering of a sickly hope.
    • 1961, Robert A. Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land, Chapter 19,[16]
      He held a vast but carefully concealed distaste for all things American [...] their manners, their bastard architecture and sickly arts … and their blind, pathetic, arrogant belief in their superiority long after their sun had set.
  7. Associated with poor moral or mental well-being.
    Synonym: unhealthy
  8. Tending to produce nausea.
    Synonyms: nauseating, sickening
    a sickly smell; sickly sentimentality
  9. Overly sweet.
    Synonyms: cloying, saccharine
  10. (obsolete) Marked by the occurrence of illness or disease (of a period of time).
  11. (obsolete) Tending to produce disease or poor health.
    Synonyms: insalubrious, unhealthy, unwholesome
    a sickly autumn; a sickly climate

Derived terms[edit]

Translations[edit]

Verb[edit]

sickly (third-person singular simple present sicklies, present participle sicklying, simple past and past participle sicklied)

  1. (transitive, archaic, literary) To make (something) sickly.
    • c. 1599–1602, William Shakespeare, “The Tragedie of Hamlet, Prince of Denmarke”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies [] (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, OCLC 606515358, [Act III, scene i]:
      Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,
      And thus the native hue of resolution
      Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,
    • 1763, Charles Churchill, An Epistle to William Hogarth, London: for the author, p. 12,[26]
      Thy Drudge contrives, and in our full career
      Sicklies our hopes with the pale hue of Fear;
    • 1840, S. M. Heaton, Thoughts on the Litany, by a naval officer’s orphan daughter, edited by George Heaton, London: William Edward Painter, Section 4, p. 58,[27]
      [] a cancer gnawing at the root of happiness, defeating every aim at permanent good in this world, and sicklying all sublunary joys []
    • 1862, Gail Hamilton, Country Living and Country Thinking, Boston: Ticknor and Fields, “Men and Women,” p. 109,[28]
      He evidently thinks the sweet little innocents never heard or thought of such a thing before, and would go on burying their curly heads in books, and sicklying their rosy faces with “the pale cast of thought” till the end of time []
    • 2000, Ninian Smart, World Philosophies, New York: Routledge, Chapter 9, p. 207,[29]
      Ockham was critical of so many of his fellows for sicklying over theology with the obscurities of philosophy.
  2. (intransitive, rare) To become sickly.
    • 1889, Samuel Cox, An Expositor’s Notebook, London: Richard D. Dickinson, 7th edition, Chapter 26, p. 364,[30]
      But the seven most prominent Apostles [] still hang together, their hearts tormented with eager yet sad questionings, their hopes fast sicklying over with the pale hues of doubt.

Adverb[edit]

sickly (comparative more sickly, superlative most sickly)

  1. In a sick manner; in a way that reflects or causes sickness.
    sickly pale; to cough sickly
    • 1818, John Keats, Endymion, London: Taylor and Hessey, Book 2, lines 859-861, p. 93,[31]
      [] he sickly guess’d
      How lone he was once more, and sadly press’d
      His empty arms together []
    • 1939, John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath, New York: Viking, 1962, Chapter , p. 364,[32]
      The dazed man stared sickly at Casy.
    • 1961, Bernard Malamud, A New Life, Penguin, 1968, Chapter , p. 185,[33]
      For ten brutal minutes he was in torment, then the pain gradually eased. He felt sickly limp but relieved, thankful for his good health.
    • 2010, Rowan Somerville, The End of Sleep New York: Norton, Chapter 9, p. 66,[34]
      The creaseless horizontal face of the giant smiled sickly, leering.