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.

Nearby words

  1. sullivan, harry stack,
  2. sullivan, john,
  3. sullivan, john lawrence,
  4. sullivan, sir arthur seymour,
  5. sullom voe,
  6. sully, maximilien de béthune, duc de,
  7. sully, thomas,
  8. sully-prudhomme,
  9. sully-prudhomme, rené françois armand,
  10. sulph-

Origin of sully

First recorded in 1585–95; origin uncertain

Related formssul·li·a·ble, adjectiveun·sul·li·a·ble, adjectiveun·sul·lied, adjective


[suhl-ee; for 1 also French sy-lee]


Ma·xi·mi·lien de Bé·thune [mak-see-mee-lyan duh bey-tyn] /mak si miˈlyɛ̃ də beɪˈtün/, Duc de,1560–1641, French statesman.
Thomas,1783–1872, U.S. painter, born in England. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for sully

British Dictionary definitions for sully


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 sully



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