View synonyms for manly


[ man-lee ]


, man·li·er, man·li·est.
  1. having qualities traditionally ascribed to men, as strength or bravery.

    Antonyms: cowardly, weak

  2. pertaining to or suitable for males:

    manly sports.


  1. Archaic. in a manly manner.


/ ˈmænlɪ /


  1. possessing qualities, such as vigour or courage, generally regarded as appropriate to or typical of a man; masculine
  2. characteristic of or befitting a man

    a manly sport

“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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Derived Forms

  • ˈmanliness, noun
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Other Words From

  • manli·ness noun
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Word History and Origins

Origin of manly1

before 900; Middle English (adj., adv.); Old English manlīc (adj.), manlīce (adv.). See man, -ly
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Synonym Study

Manly, manful, mannish mean having the traits or qualities that a culture regards as especially characteristic of or ideally appropriate to adult men. Manly is usually a term of approval, suggesting traits admired by society, such as determination, decisiveness, and steadiness: a manly acceptance of the facts; manly firmness of character. Manful, also a term of approval, stresses qualities such as courage, strength, and fortitude: a manful effort to overcome great odds. Mannish is most often used derogatorily in reference to the traits, manners, or accouterments of a woman that are thought to be more appropriate to or typical of a man: a mannish abruptness in her speech; She wore a severely mannish suit. male.
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Example Sentences

Basically, to have a relaxing, fulfilling meal, the best bet for the birdies is to look as manly as possible.

Like the emperor’s eulogizers, Choniates is clear to highlight Komnenos as someone who spent his time in the sun doing manly things.

The two pairs both suffer embarrassments and humiliations on the trip, but the overall effect is that of boys’ story without being a stubbornly manly one.

This manly experiment is intended to test the theory of real-life Norwegian psychiatrist Finn Skårderud, who has asserted that the normal blood alcohol level of human beings is just too low.

From Time

A person who doesn’t fit their designated type—someone who gets labeled an effete man or a manly woman—seems at odds with the natural order of things.

There are many others getting their footing, like Androgyny and Original Tomboy, all manly duds for anyone.

It's not really sexy but it's hot to watch men doing manly things.

For a short time there was Zima Gold, which was slightly amber and almost had bourbon like taste to it — for the manly Zima man.

Many found this to echo a Stepford Wife mentality of women: Women like stories and language, not impersonal, cold, manly numbers!

But this is the kind of role, both manly and emotional, that launches an actor into the stratosphere.

The other was the spirited portrait of Baron von Friedericks, a happy combination of cavalier and soldier in its manly strength.

I cannot call that peculiarly manly, which are the peculiar pursuits of the lowest of our species.

A marvel of manly strength and grace and beauty, thirty years of age or so, and faultlessly dressed.

He was a manly young fellow, a sportsman and renowned at cricket, and she was amiable and pretty, a little blonde beauty.

This was the point of compass revealed by the astrologer as most favourable to the young candidate for manly honours.


Related Words

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About This Word

What does manly mean?

Manly means having qualities traditionally associated with men, such as courage or strength.

Manly is typically used to describe a man who has qualities (or who display qualities) that are generally considered to be characteristic of a man or manhood, as in He was dressed as a manly lumberjack with a thick beard and big muscles. 

It can also be used to describe things that involve, are intended for, are popular among, or are thought to be appropriate for men, as in My grandfather enjoyed manly hobbies like hunting.

Of course, all of these associations are based on gender stereotypes that are often sexist and exclusionary. Manly implies qualities, attributes, and interests that are not exclusive to men, and that do not apply to every man. Anyone can be courageous and strong. Anyone can be good at and enjoy sports or outdoor activities. For these reasons, many people avoid using adjectives like manly and object to their use.

Example: He calls himself a manly man who enjoys manly things like powerlifting and beef stew.

Where does manly come from?

The first records of the word manly come from before 900. The adjective -ly is often used to form adverbs, but it is used here to form an adjective. It means “having the qualities of,” making manly mean “having the qualities a man.”

When used to describe males, manly is nearly always used positively to indicate that they have desirable traits or qualities. When it’s used to describe a woman, however, manly is more often used to accuse her of “acting like a man” or having the traits of a man, implying that this is a bad thing.

The word mannish is also used this way. Words like this are based on society’s concept of gender roles, which are ingrained stereotypes not tied to biology but instead based on traditional notions of how men and women should act.

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  • manliness (noun)

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