English [ edit ]
Etymology [ edit ]
Middle English , seekly , sekely , siklich , equivalent to sekeliche + sick . Possibly a modification of -ly 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 .
Pronunciation [ edit ]
Adjective [ edit ]
sickly ( comparative , sicklier superlative ) sickliest
Frequently ill or in poor health.
a sickly child
1759, Tobias Smollett, letter dated 16 March, 1759, in James Boswell, London: Charles Dilly, 1791, Volume The Life of Samuel Johnson, 1, p. 190,
 [...] 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 , volumes Pride and Prejudice: [ … ] (please specify |volume=I to III), London: [ … ] [George Sidney ] for T, [homas ] Egerton [ … ] , , →OCLC 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; Not in good health; (somewhat) sick.
(first performance), 1599 William Shakespeare, “ The Tragedie of Iulius Cæsar”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies ( [ … ] First Folio), London: [ … ] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed, published [ward ] Blount 1623, , [Act II, scene iv]: →OCLC Yes, bring me word, boy, if thy lord look well, For he went sickly forth:
1782, Samuel Johnson, letter dated 20 March, 1782, in James Boswell, London: Charles Dilly, 1791, Volume The Life of Samuel Johnson, 2, p. 419,
 The season was dreary, I was sickly, and found the friends sickly whom I went to see.
1850, Charlotte Brontë, letter dated 29 April, 1850, in Elizabeth Gaskell, London: Smith, Elder, 1857, Chapter The Life of Charlotte Brontë, 6, p. 157,
 Papa continues far from well; he is often very sickly in the morning, , 1958 Muriel Spark, chapter 9, in Robinson , New York: New Directions, published  2003, page 128: Miguel’s temperature was normal that day, though he was still sickly and restless. Characterized by poor or unhealthy growth.
( of a plant )
, 1931 Pearl S. Buck, chapter 27, in The Good Earth , New York: Modern Library, published  1944, page 236: [...] the good wheat on this land had turned sickly and yellow. , 1962 Rachel Carson, chapter 6, in Silent Spring , Boston: Houghton Mifflin, page  79: With the aid of the marigolds the roses flourished; in the control beds they were sickly and drooping. Appearing
ill, infirm or unhealthy; giving the appearance of illness.
a sickly pallor
1782, Frances Burney, London: T. Payne and Son, and T. Cadell, Volume Cecilia, 1, Book 1, Chapter 9, p. 121,
 [...] she exhibited a countenance so wretched, and a complection so sickly, that Cecilia was impressed with horror at the sight.
, 1791 Elizabeth Inchbald, chapter 12, in A Simple Story , volume 3, London: G.G.J. and J. Robinson, pages  161–162: [...] 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, chapter 39, in Catch-22 , New York: Dell:  Yossarian [...] could not wipe from his mind the excruciating image of the barefoot boy with sickly cheeks [...]
Shedding a relatively small amount of light; ( of light) not very bright.
Synonyms: , faint , pale wan
, 1757 Thomas Gray, Odes , Dublin: G. Faulkner and J. Rudd, page 5:  Night, and all her sickly dews, Her Spectres wan, and Birds of boding cry,
, Currer Bell [pseudonym; 1849 Charlotte Brontë], chapter 5, in , volumes Shirley. A Tale. [ … ] (please specify |volume=I to III), London: Smith, Elder and Co., [ … ] , : →OCLC Mr. Moore haunted his mill, his mill-yard, his dye-house, and his warehouse till the sickly dawn strengthened into day.
(date written), 1870–1871 Mark Twain [pseudonym; Samuel Langhorne Clemens], chapter XXXII, in , Hartford, Conn.: American Publishing Company [ Roughing It et al.], published 1872, , →OCLC 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: Duncan saw the men through a haze of wire and cigarette smoke and sickly, artificial light;
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, page  19: 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, page  27: [...] my credulous heart [...] fondly loves to cherish The feeble glimmering of a sickly hope. , 1961 Robert A. Heinlein, chapter 19, in , New York: Avon, Stranger in a Strange Land : →OCLC 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. Associated with poor
moral or mental well-being.
, [ 1766 Oliver Goldsmith], chapter 3, in , volumes The Vicar of Wakefield: [ … ] (please specify |volume=I or II), Salisbury, Wiltshire: [ … ] B. Collins, for F, [rancis ] Newbery [ … ] , ; reprinted London: →OCLC Elliot Stock, 1885, , →OCLC page : 27 The slightest distress, whether real or fictitious, touched him to the quick, and his soul laboured under a sickly sensibility of the miseries of others.
(date written), 1791 Mary Wollstonecraft, chapter 3, in , 1st American edition, Boston, Mass.: A Vindication of the Rights of Woman: With Strictures on Political and Moral Subjects [ … ] Peter Edes for Thomas and Andrews, [ … ] , published 1792, : →OCLC These were not the ravings of imbecility, the sickly effusions of distempered brains;
, 1891 Oscar Wilde, chapter 2, in , London, New York, N.Y., Melbourne, Vic.: The Picture of Dorian Gray Ward Lock & Co., , →OCLC page : 33 Don’t squander the gold of your days [...] trying to improve the hopeless failure, or giving away your life to the ignorant, the common, and the vulgar. These are the sickly aims, the false ideals, of our age.
, 2018 Anna Burns, Milkman , London: Faber & Faber, part 4:  That he had some sickly compulsion neurosis, they said, was very plain for all eyes to see. Tending to produce
Synonyms: , nauseating sickening a sickly smell; sickly sentimentality
, 1865 Christina Rossetti, “Amor Mundi”, in Goblin Market; The Prince’s Progress; and Other Poems , London: Macmillan, published  1875, page 286: ‘Oh, what is that glides quickly where velvet flowers grow thickly, Their scent comes rich and sickly?’—‘A scaled and hooded worm.’
1884 December 10, Mark Twain [pseudonym; Samuel Langhorne Clemens], chapter XXIII, in , London: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: (Tom Sawyer’s Comrade) [ … ] Chatto & Windus, [ … ] , , →OCLC pages : 197-198 [… ] it warn’t no perfumery neither, not by a long sight. I smelt sickly eggs by the barrel, and rotten cabbages, and such things;
, 1944 Katherine Anne Porter, “The Leaning Tower”, in The Leaning Tower and Other Stories , New York: Harcourt, Brace, page  173: He had scanty discouraged hair the color of tow, and a sickly, unpleasant breath.
Synonyms: , cloying saccharine
, 1950 Mervyn Peake, chapter 80, in Gormenghast , New York: Ballantine, published  1968, page 562: The honey tasted sickly in his mouth.
Marked by the occurrence of illness or disease ( ( obsolete ) of a period of time).
c. (date written), 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, published [ward ] Blount 1623, , [Act III, scene iii]: →OCLC This physic but prolongs thy sickly days.
a. 1768, Laurence Sterne, undated letter in Original Letters, London: Logographic Press, 1788, pp. 110-111,
 [...] if I thought the sentiments of your last letter were not the sentiments of a sickly moment—if I could be made to believe, for an instant, that they proceeded from you, in a sober, reflecting condition of your mind—I should give you over as incurable, Tending to produce disease or poor health.
( obsolete )
Synonyms: , insalubrious , unhealthy unwholesome a sickly autumn; a sickly climate
, 1867 Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, transl., The Divine Comedy: Inferno , London: Routledge,  Canto 20, lines 79-81, p. 64: Not far it [the water] runs before it finds a plain In which it spreads itself, and makes it marshy, And oft ’tis wont in summer to be sickly.
Derived terms [ edit ]
Translations [ edit ]
болнав (bg) ( bolnav ) Catalan:
malaltís , (ca) malaltós , (ca) malaltús (ca) Dutch:
ziekelijk (nl) Finnish:
sairaalloinen (fi) French:
maladif , (fr) souffreteux (fr) , m chétif (fr) , m valétudinaire (fr) Galician:
kränklich , (de) ( Switzerland ) fehlbar , (de) kränkelnd , (de) siech , (de) dahinsiechend (de) Greek:
Ancient: ἄρρωστος ( árrhōstos ) Irish:
, leice galrach Latin:
, aegrotaticius morbōsus Maori:
, aewa , matemate , anuhē , anuhea manauhea Old English:
chorowity , (pl) schorowany Portuguese:
enfermiço , (pt) doentio , (pt) valetudinário Romanian:
bolnăvicios (ro) Russian:
боле́зненный (ru) ( boléznennyj ) Spanish:
enfermizo , (es) enclenque , (es) calamitoso , (es) enteco , (es) achacoso , (es) valetudinario (es) Swedish:
sjuklig (sv) , c sjukligt (sv) , n sjukliga (sv) pl Tagalog:
hastalıklı (tr) Vietnamese: èo uột (vi)
sickly ( third-person singular simple present , sicklies present participle , sicklying simple past and past participle ) sicklied
To make (something) sickly.
( transitive , archaic , literary )
c. (date written), 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, published [ward ] Blount 1623, , [Act III, scene i]: →OCLC 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, page  12: Thy Drudge contrives, and in our full career Sicklies our hopes with the pale hue of Fear;
, S. M. Heaton, edited by George Heaton, 1840 Thoughts on the Litany, by a naval officer’s orphan daughter , London: William Edward Painter, Section 4, p. 58:  [… ] a cancer gnawing at the root of happiness, defeating every aim at permanent good in this world, and sicklying all sublunary joys [… ]
, Gail Hamilton, “Men and Women”, in 1862 Country Living and Country Thinking , Boston: Ticknor and Fields, page  109: 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, chapter 9, in World Philosophies , New York: Routledge, page  207: Ockham was critical of so many of his fellows for sicklying over theology with the obscurities of philosophy. To become sickly.
( intransitive , rare ) 1889, Samuel Cox, An Expositor’s Notebook, London: Richard D. Dickinson, 7th edition, Chapter 26, p. 364,
 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.
sickly ( comparative , more sickly superlative ) most sickly
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: [… ] he sickly guess’d How lone he was once more, and sadly press’d His empty arms together [… ]
, 1961 Bernard Malamud, A New Life , Penguin, published  1968, Chapter , p. 185: For ten brutal minutes he was in torment, then the pain gradually eased. He felt sickly limp but relieved, thankful for his good health. , Rowan Somerville, chapter 9, in 2010 The End of Sleep , New York: Norton, page  66: The creaseless horizontal face of the giant smiled sickly, leering.
Derived terms [ edit ]