Origin of jolly

1275–1325; Middle English joli, jolif < Old French, equivalent to jol- (probably < Old Norse jōl yule) + -if -ive
Related formsjol·li·ly, adverbjol·li·ness, nounun·jol·ly, adjective

Synonyms for jolly

Antonyms for jolly

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for jolly

Contemporary Examples of jolly

Historical Examples of jolly

  • And yet there ought to be so much to do here; it's all so fresh and roomy and jolly.

    The Spenders

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • "I suppose I've jolly well got to take it," said Banstead, unruffled.


    William J. Locke

  • It's a jolly sight better than sentiment when it comes to marrying.

  • A friend and a tent, a jug of whisky and a lot of jolly good tobacco.

  • We were a jolly set; most of us poor as church mice, and caring little.

British Dictionary definitions for jolly


adjective -lier or -liest

full of good humour; jovial
having or provoking gaiety and merrymaking; festive
greatly enjoyable; pleasing


British (intensifier)you're jolly nice

verb -lies, -lying or -lied (tr) informal

(often foll by up or along) to try to make or keep (someone) cheerful
to make goodnatured fun of


informal, mainly British a festivity or celebration
informal, mainly British a trip, esp one made for pleasure by a public official or committee at public expense
British slang a Royal Marine
Derived Formsjolliness, noun

Word Origin for jolly

C14: from Old French jolif, probably from Old Norse jōl yule
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 jolly

c.1300 (late 13c. as a surname), from Old French jolif "festive, merry, amorous, pretty" (12c.) of uncertain origin (cf. Italian giulivo "merry, pleasant").

Perhaps a Germanic loan-word from a source akin to Old Norse jol "a winter feast" (see yule), or from Latin gaudere "to rejoice," from PIE *gau- "to rejoice" (see joy). For loss of -f, cf. tardy, hasty. Related: Jollily; jolliness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper