verb (used with object), sul·lied, sul·ly·ing.

to soil, stain, or tarnish.
to mar the purity or luster of; defile: to sully a reputation.

verb (used without object), sul·lied, sul·ly·ing.

to become sullied, soiled, or tarnished.

noun, plural sul·lies.

Obsolete. a stain; soil.

Origin of sully

First recorded in 1585–95; origin uncertain
Related formssul·li·a·ble, adjectiveun·sul·li·a·ble, adjectiveun·sul·lied, adjective

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

Examples from the Web for sullied

Contemporary Examples of sullied

  • Straight couples will see that their own marriages were somehow not sullied after all.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Who Are the Judicial Activists Now?

    Michael Tomasky

    October 7, 2014

  • Similarly, clandestine foreign operations have sullied the civilian courts.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Bin Laden's Real Legacy

    David K. Shipler

    May 26, 2011

  • This modern autocrat suckles from your own breast and buries you beneath a mountain of sullied nappies.

    The Daily Beast logo
    The Book for Angry Moms

    Eric Pape

    March 29, 2010

Historical Examples of sullied

  • No taint of vice or dissipation had ever sullied the brightness of his pleasant life.

    Henry Dunbar

    M. E. Braddon

  • Was it well that a deity should be sullied by a mortal's wound?

  • Even the memory of his grand passion was now corrupted, sullied, debased.

    The Child of Pleasure

    Gabriele D'Annunzio

  • The child has been concealed, that she might not be sullied by the looks of such creatures as you.

    The Regent's Daughter

    Alexandre Dumas (Pere)

  • Never let your reputation in this respect be sullied by so much as a breath.

    The Congo Rovers

    Harry Collingwood

British Dictionary definitions for sullied


verb -lies, -lying or -lied

to stain or tarnish (a reputation, etc) or (of a reputation) to become stained or tarnished

noun plural -lies

a stain
the act of sullying
Derived Formssulliable, adjective

Word Origin for sully

C16: probably from French souiller to soil



Maximilien de Béthune (maksimiljɛ̃ də betyn), Duc de Sully. 1559–1641, French statesman; minister of Henry IV. He helped restore the finances of France after the Wars of Religion
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 sullied



1570s (implied in sulliedness), probably from Middle French souiller, from Old French souillier "make dirty" (see soil (v.)). Related: Sullied; sullying.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper