- 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.
- Obsolete. lordly; arrogant.
Origin of surly
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.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018
Examples from the Web for surliness
The 59-year-old prime minister has a Nixonian reputation for surliness and bullying.Tonight, Britain's Future Is Up for Debate
Samuel P. Jacobs
April 14, 2010
Yes, but surliness might have provoked a point-blank question.The Secret Sharer
"These be some of my investments," he answered, with just a tinge of surliness.The Crisis, Complete
He made no friends, and though his surliness repelled us, he made few enemies.Andersonville, Volume 3
His normal easygoing manner was broken by periods of surliness.First on the Moon
Surliness in excess they might have, but dignity, not at all.The Rustler of Wind River
G. W. Ogden
- sullenly ill-tempered or rude
- (of an animal) ill-tempered or refractory
- obsolete arrogant
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
Word Origin and History for surliness
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper