Try Our Apps


90s Slang You Should Know


[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. 2017.
Cite This Source
Examples from the Web for slyness
Historical Examples
  • Although quite free from slyness, or anything unpleasantly furtive, it had a shut, reserved look when his eyes were cast down.

    The Way of Ambition Robert Hichens
  • It was like a child, frightened into slyness, coaxing its mother.

    Little Novels of Italy Maurice Henry Hewlett
  • He calls to mind all Mrs. Talbot had said about her slyness, and feels disheartened.

    The Haunted Chamber "The Duchess"
  • She had read him and was openly rejoicing in what she thought his slyness.

    The Call of the Blood Robert Smythe Hichens
  • “Greatly excited, no doubt,” interposed Mr. Perker, with a look of slyness which was very likely accidental.

  • Beauchamp was not insensible to the slyness of the poke at him.

  • With the slyness of a pair of cats, the evildoers crept up the companionway once more.

    At the Fall of Port Arthur Edward Stratemeyer
  • And some, like Florence, move with the slyness and softness of a cat.

    The Crystal Ball Roy J. Snell
  • In its union of slyness with audacity, the movement which Washington now executed strongly reminds one of “Stonewall” Jackson.

  • 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
Cite This Source
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
Cite This Source
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.
Cite This Source

Word of the Day

Difficulty index for sly

Most English speakers likely know this word

Word Value for slyness

Scrabble Words With Friends

Nearby words for slyness