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[slahy] /slaɪ/
adjective, slyer, slyest.
cunning or wily:
sly as a fox.
stealthy, insidious, or secret.
playfully artful, mischievous, or roguish:
sly humor.
on the sly, secretly; furtively:
a tryst on the sly.
Origin of sly
1150-1200; Middle English sly, sley, from Old Norse slœgr “sly, cunning” (originally “able to strike, able to slay”); see slay
Related forms
slyly, adverb
slyness, noun
unsly, adjective, unslyer, unslyest.
unslyly, adverb
unslyness, noun
1. artful, subtle, foxy, crafty, shrewd, astute. 2. surreptitious, furtive, underhand, clandestine.
1. direct, obvious. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for slyness
Historical Examples
  • We shall learn if slyness and treachery are to be defeated by fair-going and honour.

    The O'Ruddy Stephen Crane
  • It was like a child, frightened into slyness, coaxing its mother.

    Little Novels of Italy Maurice Henry Hewlett
  • He combines the ferocity of the tiger, the slyness of the fox, and the shape of a monkey.

    The Kentucky Ranger Edward T. Curnick
  • She had read him and was openly rejoicing in what she thought his slyness.

    The Call of the Blood

    Robert Smythe Hichens
  • Now, however, the diabolical reason of his slyness was apparent.

    The heart of happy hollow Paul Laurence Dunbar
  • She had been steeped in slyness from her early infancy by a sly mother.

    What Will He Do With It, Complete Edward Bulwer-Lytton
  • Beauchamp was not insensible to the slyness of the poke at him.

  • And some, like Florence, move with the slyness and softness of a cat.

    The Crystal Ball Roy J. Snell
  • For general reason, frankness is not a better quality than slyness.

  • I should like to know what you think of yourself now with your slyness and deceit?

    Margaret Vincent Sophia Lucy Clifford
British Dictionary definitions for slyness


adjective slyer, slyest, slier, sliest
crafty; artful: a sly dodge
insidious; furtive: a sly manner
playfully mischievous; roguish: sly humour
on the sly, in a secretive manner
Derived Forms
slyly, slily, adverb
slyness, noun
Word Origin
C12: from Old Norse slǣgr clever, literally: able to strike, from slā to slay
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for slyness

mid-14c., from sly (adj.) + -ness.



c.1200, "skillful, clever, dexterous," from Old Norse sloegr "cunning, crafty, sly," from Proto-Germanic *slogis (cf. Low German slu "cunning, sly," German schlau), probably from base *slak- "to strike, hit" (see slay (v.)), with an original notion of "able to hit." Cf. German verschlagen "cunning, crafty, sly," schlagfertig "quick-witted," literally "strike-ready," from schlagen "to strike." A non-pejorative use of the word lingered in northern English dialect until 20c. On the sly "in secret" is recorded from 1812. Sly-boots "a seeming Silly, but subtil Fellow" is in the 1700 "Dictionary of the Canting Crew."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Idioms and Phrases with slyness


see: on the sly
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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