adjective, mea·sli·er, mea·sli·est.

  1. contemptibly small, meager, or slight: They paid me a measly fifteen dollars for a day's work.
  2. wretchedly bad or unsatisfactory: a measly performance.
infected with measles, as an animal or its flesh.
pertaining to or resembling measles.

Origin of measly

First recorded in 1680–90; measl(es) + -y1 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for measly

Contemporary Examples of measly

Historical Examples of measly

  • "Well, I'd lost the whole blamed chunk on a pair of measly aces," he said.

    Good Indian

    B. M. Bower

  • A measly hundred and fifty dollars a month and find yourself.

    Lord Jim

    Joseph Conrad

  • I forced that much from the Chilcat when I had the measly wretch upon his back.

  • The muscles are sometimes full of them, and the pig is then said to be “measly.”

  • Do you think I am going to break my neck for your measly ten dollars?

British Dictionary definitions for measly


adjective -slier or -sliest

informal meagre in quality or quantity
(of meat) measled
having or relating to measles

Word Origin for measly

C17: see measles
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 measly

"affected with measles," 1680s, from measle (see measles) + -y (2); sense of "meager and contemptible" first recorded 1864 in British slang.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper