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Etymology 1[edit]

From spright +‎ -ly (suffix forming adjectives with the sense ‘behaving like, having the nature of’).[1] Spright is an obsolete variant of sprite (a shade, spirit; elf, fairy, goblin; apparition, ghost), from Middle English sprit (principle of life; soul, especially at the point of death; immaterial being (angel, demon, apparition, ghost, etc.); divine inspiration; Holy Spirit; the mind, intellect, reason; mental faculties, senses; power of prophecy; character, disposition; courage, resolution; mood, state of mind; human will; breath; (alchemy) volatile substance) [and other forms],[2] from Anglo-Norman esprite, esprit and Middle French esprit, variants of Anglo-Norman, Middle French, Old French espirit, esperit (spirit),[3] from Latin spīritus (air; breath; breathing; ghost, spirit), from spīrō (to breathe; to breathe out, exhale) (from Proto-Indo-European *(s)peys- (to blow; to breathe)) + -tus (suffix forming verbal nouns from verbs).


sprightly (comparative sprightlier, superlative sprightliest)

  1. Animated, gay, or vivacious; lively, spirited.
    Synonyms: energetic, high-spirited, (chiefly Australia, US) spright
    Antonym: melancholy
    • c. 1614–1616, “[Certaine Poems.] Planetarum Energia.”, in J. M. Cowper, editor, compiled by R. C. [Richard Corbet?], The Times’ Whistle: Or A Newe Daunce of Seven Satires, and Other Poems: [], London: Published for the Early English Text Society, by N[icholas] Trübner & Co., [], published 1871, →OCLC, leaf 40, page 114, lines 13–14:
      Next vnto lumpish Saturn, sprightlie Iove / Moves in his orbe.
    • 1702, [Daniel Defoe], “Part II”, in Reformation of Manners, a Satyr, [London: s.n.], →OCLC, page 59:
      And ſhou’d Apollo now deſcend and write, / In Vertue’s Praiſe ’twou’d never paſs for Wit. / The Bookſeller perhaps wou’d ſay, / ’Twas well: / But ’Twou’d not hit the Times, ’Twou’d never Sell: / Unlesſs a Spice of Lewdneſs cou’d appear, / The ſprightly part wou’d ſtill be wanting there. / [...] / ’Tis Love and Honour muſt enrich our Verſe, / The Modern Terms, our Whoring to rehearſe. / The ſprightly part attends the God of Wine, / The Drunken Stile muſt blaze in every Line.
    • 1767, [William Julius Mickle], “Canto II”, in The Concubine: A Poem, in Two Cantos. In the Manner of Spenser, Oxford, Oxfordshire: [] Daniel Prince; [s]old by J[ohn] Rivington, []; T[homas] Payne, []; and J[ames] Dodsley, []; Cambridge, Cambridgeshire: T. and J. Merrill, →OCLC, stanza LIV, page 70:
      [B]y the Path-way green, / A ſprightlie Troupe ſtill onward heedleſſe ſped, / In Chace of Butterflies alert and keen; / Honours, and Wealth, and Powre, their Butterflies I ween.
    • a. 1764, William Shenstone, “Love and Music, Writen at Oxford, when Young”, in Samuel Johnson, editor, The Works of the Poets of Great Britain and Ireland; [], volume VII, London: [] Andrew Miller, [], published 1800, →OCLC, page 137, column 1:
      The Bard now tries a ſprightlier ſound, / When all the feather'd race around / Perceive the varied ſtrains; / The ſoaring lark the note purſues; / The timorous dove around him cooes, / And Philomel complains.
  2. Of a person: full of life and vigour, especially with a light and springy step.
    Synonyms: active, dynamic, mettlesome, vivacious
    • 1685, [Francis Willis [et al.]], “Ode the 15th of the First Book of Casimire Imitated, Encouraging the Polish Knights after Their Last Conquests to Proceed in Their Victory”, in Miscellany Poems and Translations by Oxford Hands, London: [] Anthony Stephens, [], stanza VI, page 77:
      Shall our example ſloth create, / And make our Sons degenerate? / Our ſprightly youth uſeleſs in War become, / And ſleep in peace and ſlavery at home.
    • 1845, “The Heir of Linne”, in James Henry Dixon, editor, Scottish Traditional Versions of Ancient Ballads (Early English Poetry, Ballads, and Popular Literature of the Middle Ages. []; XVII, number 1), London: [] [F]or the Percy Society, by T. Richards, [], →OCLC, page 33, lines 79–80:
      This youth was ance a sprightlie boy / As ever lived in Linne.
    • 1861, [Flora Frances Wylde], The Tablette Booke of Ladye Mary Keyes, Owne Sister to the Misfortunate Ladye Jane Dudlie; [], London: Saunders, Otley, and Co. [], →OCLC, page 197:
      Methinkes it was aboutt this Date that a ſore Afflicſhon befelle my deare and formerlie merrie Siſter, the Ladye Herbert, whom my Reder will beſte recollecte as my Ladye Mother's beſte beloved Childe, the happie, ſprightlie Katie of oure School-den Daies.
      The fictional work is written in an old-fashioned style.
    1. Especially of an older person: energetic and in good health; spry.
  3. (obsolete, rare) Of or relating to a sprite; ghostly, spectral.
Alternative forms[edit]
Derived terms[edit]
Related terms[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

From spright +‎ -ly (suffix forming adverbs from adjectives).[1]; see further at etymology 1.


sprightly (comparative sprightlier, superlative sprightliest)

  1. In a lively and vigorous way; sprightlily.
Derived terms[edit]


  1. 1.0 1.1 sprightly, adv., adj., and n.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, March 2019; “sprightly, adj.”, in Lexico, Dictionary.com; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.
  2. ^ sprī̆t, n.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  3. ^ sprite, n.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, March 2019; “sprite, n.”, in Lexico, Dictionary.com; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.