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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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[suhl-ee; for 1 also French sy-lee]
  1. 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.
  2. Thomas,1783–1872, U.S. painter, born in England.
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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for sully

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

Examples from the Web for sully

Contemporary Examples of sully

Historical Examples of sully

British Dictionary definitions for sully


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 sully


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