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Phonetic variant of seely. From Old English *sǣliġ ‎(blessed), (attested only in form ġesǣliġ), from Proto-Germanic *sēlīgaz, from *sēliz. Cognate with West Frisian sillich, Dutch zalig, German selig. More at sely.



silly ‎(comparative sillier, superlative silliest)

  1. (archaic) Pitiable; deserving of compassion; helpless.
    • 1590, Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene,
      A silly man, in simple weedes forworne, / And soild with dust of the long dried way; / His sandales were with toilesome trauell torne, / And face all tand with scorching sunny ray []
    • Edmund Spenser (c.1552–1599)
      After long storms [] with which my silly bark was tossed sore.
    • Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834)
      The silly buckets on the deck.
  2. (obsolete) Simple, unsophisticated, ordinary; rustic, ignorant.
    • 1633, John Donne, "Sapho to Philænis":
      For, if we justly call each silly man / A little island, What shall we call thee than?
    • William Shakespeare (1564-1616)
      A fourth man, in a silly habit.
    • John Milton (1608-1674)
      All that did their silly thoughts so busy keep.
  3. Foolish, showing a lack of good sense and wisdom; frivolous, trifling.
    I made a very silly mistake.
    The newlyweds called each other silly little nicknames.
  4. Irresponsible, showing irresponsible behaviors.
    What a silly kid, he's always getting in trouble.
  5. Semiconscious, witless.
    The impact of the ball knocked him silly.
  6. (cricket) Of a fielding position, very close to the batsman; closer than short.
  7. (pejorative) Simple, not intelligent, unrefined.
    John was prosperous and his helpless, silly father could be of no use to him.
    • 1935, George Goodchild, chapter 1, Death on the Centre Court:
      “Anthea hasn't a notion in her head but to vamp a lot of silly mugwumps. She's set her heart on that tennis bloke [] whom the papers are making such a fuss about.”
  8. (obsolete) Happy; fortunate; blessed.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Chaucer to this entry?)
  9. (obsolete) Harmless; innocent; inoffensive.
    • Edmund Spenser (c.1552–1599)
      The silly virgin strove him to withstand.
    • Robynson (More's Utopia)
      A silly, innocent hare murdered of a dog.

Derived terms[edit]




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silly ‎(plural sillies)

  1. (colloquial) A silly person; a fool.
  2. (colloquial) A mistake.