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See more synonyms for sully on Thesaurus.com
verb (used with object), sul·lied, sul·ly·ing.
  1. to soil, stain, or tarnish.
  2. to mar the purity or luster of; defile: to sully a reputation.
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verb (used without object), sul·lied, sul·ly·ing.
  1. to become sullied, soiled, or tarnished.
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noun, plural sul·lies.
  1. Obsolete. a stain; soil.
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Origin of sully

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


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

Related Words


Examples from the Web for sullied

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • 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
  1. to stain or tarnish (a reputation, etc) or (of a reputation) to become stained or tarnished
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noun plural -lies
  1. a stain
  2. the act of sullying
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Derived Formssulliable, adjective

Word Origin

C16: probably from French souiller to soil


  1. 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
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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.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper