- churlishly rude or bad-tempered: a surly waiter.
- unfriendly or hostile; menacingly irritable: a surly old lion.
- dark or dismal; menacing; threatening: a surly sky.
- Obsolete. lordly; arrogant.
Origin of surly
Glum, morose, sullen, dour, surly all are adjectives describing a gloomy, unsociable attitude. Glum describes a depressed, spiritless condition or manner, usually temporary rather than habitual: a glum shrug of the shoulders; a glum, hopeless look in his eye. Morose, which adds to glum a sense of bitterness, implies a habitual and pervasive gloominess: a sour, morose manner; morose withdrawal from human contact. Sullen usually implies reluctance or refusal to speak accompanied by glowering looks expressing anger or a sense of injury: a sullen manner, silence, look. Dour refers to a stern and forbidding aspect, stony and unresponsive: dour rejection of friendly overtures. Surly implies gruffness of speech and manner, usually accompanied by an air of injury and ill temper: a surly reply.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018
Examples from the Web for surly
Even now, the GOP still polls less well than the Democratic Party with a surly electorate.To Make Their Victory Durable, the GOP Must Fix the Minimum Wage
November 6, 2014
So, Dean picks Laney Boggs (Rachael Leigh Cook), a dorky, surly art student.‘She’s All That' 15th Anniversary: Cast and Crew Reminisce About the Making of the ‘90s Classic
January 29, 2014
This was a guy so surly and grim that he made Tommy Lee Jones look like SpongeBob SquarePants.Obama’s Phony Bipartisan Pick: Chuck Hagel for Defense
January 8, 2013
It was a bit like watching a surly jazz musician, channeling Miles Davis, take the stage.The Power of the Wedding Dress
October 3, 2011
A couple of times, Newt Gingrich got so surly and snarky and self-congratulatory that I was transported back to 1995.The Mitt and Rick Show
September 8, 2011
"You have done very well," remarked the Brabanter in a surly voice.The White Company
Arthur Conan Doyle
Our steward was a Portuguese negro, of the most vicious and surly temper.Ned Myers
James Fenimore Cooper
He would not have been a Briton if these untoward combinations of events had not made him surly.Hetty's Strange History
She was a Socitaire of the Comdie, old, spiteful, and surly.My Double Life
He had to bid him go back in a surly tone, and his heart smote him while he did so.Barnaby Rudge
- sullenly ill-tempered or rude
- (of an animal) ill-tempered or refractory
- obsolete arrogant
C16: from obsolete sirly haughty; see sir
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 surly
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper