1. a suffix forming adverbs from adjectives: gladly; gradually; secondly.: See Grammar note at adverb.

  2. a suffix meaning “every,” attached to certain nouns denoting units of time: hourly; daily.

  1. an adjective suffix meaning “-like”: saintly; cowardly.

Origin of -ly

Middle English adverb -li, -lich(e), Old English -līce (-līc adjective suffix + -e adverb suffix); Middle English adjective -li, -ly, -lich(e), Old English -līc (cognate with German -lich ), suffixal use of gelīc “similar to, like”; see origin at like1

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use -ly in a sentence

  • I'd everlastin'ly seva' th' connections between that gentleman an' these here Ozarks.

    The Shepherd of the Hills | Harold Bell Wright
  • Ef he done kilt dat woman, de white folks goin' to git him sho'ly—sho'ly.

    The Winning Clue | James Hay, Jr.

British Dictionary definitions for ly (1 of 3)


the internet domain name for
  1. Libyan Arab Jamahiriya

British Dictionary definitions for -ly (2 of 3)


suffix forming adjectives
  1. having the nature or qualities of: brotherly; godly

  2. occurring at certain intervals; every: daily; yearly

Origin of -ly

Old English -lic

British Dictionary definitions for -ly (3 of 3)


suffix forming adverbs
  1. in a certain manner; to a certain degree: quickly; recently; chiefly

Origin of -ly

Old English -lice, from -lic -ly 1

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