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From Middle English slepy, from Old English *slǣpiġ (attested in unslǣpiġ (not sleepy, sleepless)), from Proto-West Germanic *slāpag (sleepy), equivalent to sleep +‎ -y. Cognate with Saterland Frisian släipich (sleepy), West Frisian sliepich (sleepy), Middle Dutch slapig, slêpig, slapich (sleepy), Middle Low German slâpich, Middle High German slāfec (> archaic German schlafig (sleepy)).


  • Audio (US):(file)
  • IPA(key): /ˈsliːpi/
  • Rhymes: -iːpi



sleepy (comparative sleepier, superlative sleepiest)

  1. Tired; feeling the need for sleep.
    Synonyms: tired; see also Thesaurus:sleepy
  2. Suggesting tiredness.
    • 1994, Stephen Fry, chapter 2, in The Hippopotamus:
      At the very moment he cried out, David realised that what he had run into was only the Christmas tree. Disgusted with himself at such cowardice, he spat a needle from his mouth, stepped back from the tree and listened. There were no sounds of any movement upstairs: no shouts, no sleepy grumbles, only a gentle tinkle from the decorations as the tree had recovered from the collision.
  3. Tending to induce sleep.
    Synonym: soporific
    a sleepy drink or potion
    • 1611, Iohn Speed [i.e., John Speed], “Edward the Second, []”, in The History of Great Britaine under the Conquests of yͤ Romans, Saxons, Danes and Normans. [], London: [] William Hall and John Beale, for John Sudbury and George Humble, [], →OCLC, book IX ([Englands Monarchs] []), paragraph 49, page 561, column 1:
      [T]he yong L. Roger Mortimer, [] hauing corrupted his Keepers, or (as ſome others vvrite) hauing potioned them vvith a ſleepy drinke, eſcaped out of the Tovver of London, getting ouer clearely vvithout any empeachment into France.
  4. (figurative) Dull; lazy.
    Synonyms: heavy, sluggish
  5. (figurative) Quiet; without bustle or activity.
    a sleepy English village
    • 2021 August 30, “Armed robbers take hostages in deadly bank raids in Brazil city”, in Katharine Viner, editor, The Guardian[1], London: Guardian News & Media, →ISSN, →OCLC:
      Experts believe a pandemic welfare programme for poorer Brazilians has encouraged robbers to plan bold raids in sleepy regional cities where bank branches are storing more cash.
      (Can we archive this URL?)
    • 2022 September 23, Pjotr Sauer, Dan Sabbagh, “Border queues build as people flee Russia to escape Putin’s call-up”, in Katharine Viner, editor, The Guardian[2], London: Guardian News & Media, →ISSN, →OCLC:
      Usually sleepy border crossings into Kazakhstan and Mongolia have also been overwhelmed by the sudden influx of Russians looking for a way out.
      (Can we archive this URL?)
    • 2023 March 8, Paul Salveson, “Fond farewells to two final trains...”, in Rail, number 978, page 54:
      Despite Horwich's international fame as a centre of railway engineering, Horwich station itself was usually quite a sleepy place.

Alternative forms


Derived terms






sleepy (countable and uncountable, plural sleepies)

  1. (informal, uncountable or in the plural) The gum that builds up in the eye; sleep, gound.
    Synonym: (which see for more) sleep
    • 1964, Ken Kesey, Sometimes a Great Notion:
      "Did he always leave the sleepy in his eyes?" "Never removed it; let it build up in the comers of his eyes over the weeks until it was heavy enough to fall []
    • 1991, Martin Amis, London Fields:
      But the nightdress was heavy, the sleepy in her eyes was heavy, her hair (she made a mustache of one of its locks) was heavy and smelled of cigarettes []
  2. (Australia) Shingleback.