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adjective, sil·li·er, sil·li·est.
  1. weak-minded or lacking good sense; stupid or foolish: a silly writer.
  2. absurd; ridiculous; irrational: a silly idea.
  3. stunned; dazed: He knocked me silly.
  4. Cricket. (of a fielder or the fielder's playing position) extremely close to the batsman's wicket: silly mid off.
  5. Archaic. rustic; plain; homely.
  6. Archaic. weak; helpless.
  7. Obsolete. lowly in rank or state; humble.
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noun, plural sil·lies.
  1. Informal. a silly or foolish person: Don't be such a silly.
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Origin of silly

1375–1425; earlier sylie, sillie foolish, feeble-minded, simple, pitiful; late Middle English syly, variant of sely seely
Related formssil·li·ly, adverbsil·li·ness, nounun·sil·ly, adjective


See more synonyms for on Thesaurus.com
1. witless, senseless, dull-witted, dim-witted. See foolish. 2. inane, asinine, nonsensical, preposterous.


Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for silly


adjective -lier or -liest
  1. lacking in good sense; absurd
  2. frivolous, trivial, or superficial
  3. feeble-minded
  4. dazed, as from a blow
  5. obsolete homely or humble
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  1. (modifier) cricket (of a fielding position) near the batsman's wicketsilly mid-on
  2. Also called: silly-billy plural -lies informal a foolish person
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Derived Formssilliness, noun

Word Origin

C15 (in the sense: pitiable, hence the later senses: foolish): from Old English sǣlig (unattested) happy, from sǣl happiness; related to Gothic sēls good
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 silly


Old English gesælig "happy, fortuitous, prosperous" (related to sæl "happiness"), from Proto-Germanic *sæligas (cf. Old Norse sæll "happy," Old Saxon salig, Middle Dutch salich, Old High German salig, German selig "blessed, happy, blissful," Gothic sels "good, kindhearted"), from PIE *sele- "of good mood; to favor," from root *sel- (2) "happy, of good mood; to favor" (cf. Latin solari "to comfort," Greek hilaros "cheerful, gay, merry, joyous").

This is one of the few instances in which an original long e (ee) has become shortened to i. The same change occurs in breeches, and in the American pronunciation of been, with no change in spelling. [Century Dictionary]

The word's considerable sense development moved from "happy" to "blessed" to "pious," to "innocent" (c.1200), to "harmless," to "pitiable" (late 13c.), "weak" (c.1300), to "feeble in mind, lacking in reason, foolish" (1570s). Further tendency toward "stunned, dazed as by a blow" (1886) in knocked silly, etc. Silly season in journalism slang is from 1861 (August and September, when newspapers compensate for a lack of hard news by filling up with trivial stories). Silly Putty trademark claims use from July 1949.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper