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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 surliness
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • But indeed he longed to know the deed, and fretted him because of Simon's surliness and closeness.

    Child Christopher William Morris
  • surliness in excess they might have, but dignity, not at all.

  • "Anybody can have my job that wants it," Honey volunteered with a touch of surliness unusual with him.

    Angel Island Inez Haynes Gillmore
  • "No such purpose had I," the Jotun said with a touch of surliness.

    The Ward of King Canute Ottilie A. Liljencrantz
  • Yes, but surliness might have provoked a point-blank question.

    The Secret Sharer Joseph Conrad
  • But he felt neither weariness nor impatience, neither regret nor surliness.

    The Odds Ethel M. Dell
  • Accustomed to these spells of moodiness, his wife made no attempt to rouse him, knowing it would only increase his surliness.

    The Long Dim Trail Forrestine C. Hooker
  • While he exposes the weakness of human nature, he does not do so in surliness; a pleasant smile wreathes his lips all the while.

    Genius in Sunshine and Shadow Maturin Murray Ballou
  • The chill of the morning and the surliness of the postman gradually infected the student.

British Dictionary definitions for surliness


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 surliness



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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