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[suhl-ee] /ˈsʌl i/
verb (used with object), sullied, sullying.
to soil, stain, or tarnish.
to mar the purity or luster of; defile:
to sully a reputation.
verb (used without object), sullied, sullying.
to become sullied, soiled, or tarnished.
noun, plural sullies.
Obsolete. a stain; soil.
Origin of sully
First recorded in 1585-95; origin uncertain
Related forms
sulliable, adjective
unsulliable, adjective
unsullied, adjective
1. taint, blemish, contaminate. 2. dirty, disgrace, dishonor. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for sullied
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • I was also free from those vices which sullied your character.

    Dialogues of the Dead Lord Lyttelton
  • Never let your reputation in this respect be sullied by so much as a breath.

    The Congo Rovers Harry Collingwood
  • Ah, she is not for me, I am not fit for her, I am too sullied for her lips.

  • She would not allow her mind to be sullied by such a suspicion.

    The Beth Book Sarah Grand
  • Is the great tragedy of England and Ireland that has sullied their annals for seven hundred years never to be brought to an end?

    The Glory of English Prose Stephen Coleridge
  • No rank would have been sullied by remaining in the firm of which he was the head.

  • Its reputation is not to be sullied by what masked men—bogus Ku Klux, as we, the genuine, called them—did afterwards.

    The Brothers' War John Calvin Reed
British Dictionary definitions for sullied


verb -lies, -lying, -lied
to stain or tarnish (a reputation, etc) or (of a reputation) to become stained or tarnished
noun (pl) -lies
a stain
the act of sullying
Derived Forms
sulliable, adjective
Word Origin
C16: probably from French souiller to soil


/ˈsʌlɪ; French sylli/
Maximilien de Béthune (maksimiljɛ̃ də betyn), Duc de Sully. 1559–1641, French statesman; minister of Henry IV. He helped restore the finances of France after the Wars of Religion
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 sullied



1570s (implied in sulliedness), probably from Middle French souiller, from Old French souillier "make dirty" (see soil (v.)). Related: Sullied; sullying.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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