adjective, seem·li·er, seem·li·est.

fitting or becoming with respect to propriety or good taste; decent; decorous: Your outburst of rage was hardly seemly.
suitable or appropriate; fitting: a seemly gesture.
of pleasing appearance; handsome.


in a seemly manner; fittingly; becomingly.

Origin of seemly

1175–1225; Middle English semely < Old Norse sæmiligr honorable; derivative of sœmr (see seem)
Related formsseem·li·ness, noun

Synonyms for seemly Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for seemly

Historical Examples of seemly

  • It was not seemly that the lama, and incidentally himself, should be thrown aside for such an one.


    Rudyard Kipling

  • No church sentiments, no feeling for what is seemly and in order—there has been no resident on the estates for so many years.

    The Days of My Life

    Mrs. Oliphant

  • It was not seemly for them to be idling in the drawing-rooms.


    Elinor Glyn

  • From this ensample we may learn that it is not seemly to love, and tell.

  • Ignore his claims as she would, Mrs. Ryle felt it would not be seemly to discuss before him Treve's chance of succession.

    Trevlyn Hold

    Mrs. Henry Wood

British Dictionary definitions for seemly


adjective -lier or -liest

proper or fitting
obsolete pleasing or handsome in appearance


archaic properly or decorously
Derived Formsseemliness, noun

Word Origin for seemly

C13: from Old Norse sœomiligr, from sœmr befitting
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 seemly

"of pleasing or good appearance," also "proper, tasteful, decorous," early 13c., semlich, from Old Norse soemiligr "becoming, honorable," from soemr (see seem). Related: Seemliness. Cf. Old Norse soemleitr "fine to look at."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper