• synonyms


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

Synonyms for sully

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

Related Words for sullies

defile, debase, tarnish, smear, blacken, dishonor, taint, smudge, discolor, corrupt, disgrace, besmirch, tar, blot, debauch, spot, mark, dirty, contaminate

Examples from the Web for sullies

Historical Examples of sullies

  • Their shifts and their sullies throughout the blood did stain.

    The Lay of the Cid

    R. Selden Rose

  • Sometimes these passions plunge us into a turbulent joy, and he who gives way to such, sullies the air with brutish laughter.


    Anatole France

  • He resisted the most powerful temptations, and there is no recorded act which sullies his memory.

  • This act, a bar-sinister in the biography of Gorges, sullies his escutcheon at the outset.

  • That it is which sullies the honor of your name much more than the storm has injured your cloak!

British Dictionary definitions for sullies


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 for sully

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 sullies



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