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90s Slang You Should Know


[sur-lee] /ˈsɜr li/
adjective, surlier, surliest.
churlishly rude or bad-tempered:
a surly waiter.
unfriendly or hostile; menacingly irritable:
a surly old lion.
dark or dismal; menacing; threatening:
a surly sky.
Synonyms: ominous.
Obsolete. lordly; arrogant.
Origin of surly
1560-70; spelling variant of obsolete sirly lordly, arrogant, equivalent to sir + -ly
Related forms
surlily, adverb
surliness, noun
unsurlily, adverb
unsurliness, noun
unsurly, adjective
Synonym Study
Glum, morose, sullen, dour, surly all are adjectives describing a gloomy, unsociable attitude. Glum describes a depressed, spiritless condition or manner, usually temporary rather than habitual: a glum shrug of the shoulders; a glum, hopeless look in his eye. Morose, which adds to glum a sense of bitterness, implies a habitual and pervasive gloominess: a sour, morose manner; morose withdrawal from human contact. Sullen usually implies reluctance or refusal to speak accompanied by glowering looks expressing anger or a sense of injury: a sullen manner, silence, look. Dour refers to a stern and forbidding aspect, stony and unresponsive: dour rejection of friendly overtures. Surly implies gruffness of speech and manner, usually accompanied by an air of injury and ill temper: a surly reply. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for surlily
Historical Examples
  • He surlily answered, "You do not look like men that would lie on straw."

    George Fox George Fox
  • “I am a Christian,” I answered, surlily enough, for I did not like this examination.

    In the Days of Drake J. S. Fletcher
  • “Don't know of anything that's happened,” he returned, surlily.

    Madelon Mary E. Wilkins Freeman
  • "The son of Brander is jarl, not I," replied the viking, surlily.

    Ulric the Jarl William O. Stoddard
  • I think that he must have noticed my look of disgust, for he answered me surlily, "No, I don't!"

    A Monk of Cruta E. Phillips Oppenheim
  • He answered me surlily he had no fool with him, for that he travelled alone.

  • Winters, swollen with rebellion because of the secondary part he had to play, surlily consented to sit with Two Horns.

  • "I gather 'em off the trees by the road-side," said he surlily.

  • A porter came at my summons and demanded, surlily enough, what I wanted.

    Sir Ludar Talbot Baines Reed
  • Levi looked at him surlily for a while with eyes that glowed like coals.

    The Tenants of Malory Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu
British Dictionary definitions for surlily


adjective -lier, -liest
sullenly ill-tempered or rude
(of an animal) ill-tempered or refractory
(obsolete) arrogant
Derived Forms
surlily, adverb
surliness, noun
Word Origin
C16: from obsolete sirly haughty; see sir
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 surlily



1560s, "lordly, majestic," alteration of Middle English sirly "lordly, imperious" (14c.), from sir. The meaning "rude, gruff" is first attested 1660s. For sense development, cf. lordly, and German herrisch "domineering, imperious," from Herr "master, lord."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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