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Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English
a sly grin
▪ A sly grin crossed his face.
▪ A sly grin crossed his face as he thought of an alternative billet in which to spend what remained of the night.
▪ Herbie's face had also lit in a sly smile as Mary had passed.
▪ He was relieved when he saw Earnhardt's trademark sly smile.
▪ Wickham saw Marshall's sly smile and understood what he was thinking.
▪ By his sly smile, I think this is the one he intended.
▪ All those gloating women looking down into his grave, whispering their sisterly secrets behind their sly smiles.
▪ A sly look crossed his face when Patsy mentioned the money.
▪ Children of that age can be very sly.
▪ Eliot looked sly and deceitful, as though he wasn't telling us the whole truth.
▪ He's a sly old devil isn't he! Nobody knew he had as much money as that!
▪ My parents didn't approve, but we continued to meet on the sly.
▪ The sly old Congressman knows what it takes to get elected.
▪ He wanted to forget that she was sly and spiteful and malicious.
▪ How the sly one squeaked, howled, sizzled, hissed, and swelled his hairy carapace!
▪ I began to dislike her; she looked sly and I felt indignant that she'd spoken to me like that.
▪ I won't be party to your bitching yourself on the sly.
▪ Manshin Anjima gave me a sly look and wrote down the name of her cemetery.
▪ Mitchell was shocked to see the man signaling him with sly winks.
The Collaborative International Dictionary

Sly \Sly\, a. [Compar. Slieror Slyer; superl. Sliest or Slyest.] [OE. sli, slegh, sleih, Icel. sl?gr, for sl?gr; akin to Sw. slug, Dan. slu, LG. slou, G. schlau; probably to E. slay, v.t.; cf. G. verschlagen sly. See Slay, v. t., and cf. Sleight.]

  1. Dexterous in performing an action, so as to escape notice; nimble; skillful; cautious; shrewd; knowing; -- in a good sense.

    Be ye sly as serpents, and simple as doves.
    --Wyclif (Matt. x. 16).

    Whom graver age And long experience hath made wise and sly.

  2. Artfully cunning; secretly mischievous; wily.

    For my sly wiles and subtle craftiness, The litle of the kingdom I possess.

  3. Done with, and marked by, artful and dexterous secrecy; subtle; as, a sly trick.

    Envy works in a sly and imperceptible manner.
    --I. Watts.

  4. Light or delicate; slight; thin. [Obs.]

    By the sly, or On the sly, in a sly or secret manner. [Colloq.] ``Gazed on Hetty's charms by the sly.''
    --G. Eliot.

    Sly goose (Zo["o]l.), the common sheldrake; -- so named from its craftiness.

    Syn: Cunning; crafty; subtile; wily. See Cunning.


Sly \Sly\, adv. Slyly. [Obs. or Poetic]

Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

c.1200, "skillful, clever, dexterous," from Old Norse sloegr "cunning, crafty, sly," from Proto-Germanic *slogis (cognates: Low German slu "cunning, sly," German schlau), probably from base *slak- "to strike, hit" (see slay (v.)), with an original notion of "able to hit." Compare German verschlagen "cunning, crafty, sly," schlagfertig "quick-witted," literally "strike-ready," from schlagen "to strike." A non-pejorative use of the word lingered in northern English dialect until 20c. On the sly "in secret" is recorded from 1812. Sly-boots "a seeming Silly, but subtil Fellow" is in the 1700 "Dictionary of the Canting Crew."


a. 1 Artfully cunning; secretly mischievous; wily. 2 dextrous in performing an action, so as to escape notice; nimble; skillful; cautious; shrewd; knowing; — in a good sense. 3 Done with, and marked by, artful and dexterous secrecy; subtle; as, a sly trick. 4 Light or delicate; slight; thin. adv. slyly.

  1. adj. marked by skill in deception; "cunning men often pass for wise"; "deep political machinations"; "a foxy scheme"; "a slick evasive answer"; "sly as a fox"; "tricky Dik"; "a wily old attorney" [syn: crafty, cunning, dodgy, foxy, guileful, knavish, slick, tricksy, tricky, wily]

  2. [also: slyest, slyer, sliest, slier]


Sly may refer to:

Sly (opera)

Sly, ovvero La leggenda del dormiente risvegliato (English: Sly, or The Legend of the Sleeper Awoken) is an opera in three acts by Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari to an Italian libretto by Giovacchino Forzano, based on the Induction (the Prologue) to William Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew (the German version of libretto, Sly, oder Die Legende vom wiedererweckten Schläfer, was translated by Walter Dahms). Unlike most of Wolf-Ferrari's other operas, this is a tragedy.

Sly (The Cat Empire song)

"Sly" is a song by The Cat Empire, and was the first single taken from their 2005 album, Two Shoes. It peaked at #23 in the Australian singles chart. The song appears on EA Games' FIFA 08.

Sly (band)

Sly was a Japanese heavy metal band formed in 1994 by former members of popular groups of the Japanese metal scene. The line-up included singer Minoru Niihara and drummer Munetaka Higuchi ( Loudness), guitarist Shinichiro Ishihara ( Earthshaker) and bassist Koichi Terasawa ( Blizzard). Sly disbanded in 1998, with Niihara and Higuchi re-joining Loudness in 2000 and Ishihara taking part in the reformation of his former group Earthshaker in 1999.

Sly (surname)

Sly is the surname of:


  • Darryl Sly (1939-2007), Canadian National Hockey League player
  • Harold Sly (1904-?), English professional association football player
  • James Calvin Sly (1807-1864), Mormon pioneer, scout, settler and missionary
  • Tony Sly (born 1970), American singer, songwriter and guitarist, best known as the frontman of the punk rock band No Use for a Name
  • William Sly (died 1608), Elizabethan actor and colleague of William Shakespeare

Fictional characters:

  • Christopher Sly, in Shakespeare's play The Taming of the Shrew
Sly (Massive Attack song)

"Sly" is a single by British trip hop collective Massive Attack, released as a first single from their second album Protection on 17 October 1994.

Usage examples of "sly".

Furtiveness and secretiveness seemed universal in this hushed city of alienage and death, and I could not escape the sensation of being watched from ambush on every hand by sly, staring eyes that never shut.

The thing was done so rapidly that the sheriff--a sly, keen fellow, worthy of his clients Barbet and Metivier--found the lad weeping in his chair when he entered the wretched room, after assuring himself that the manuscripts were not in the antechamber.

Tancret, good old Tancret, whom he, Bendel, loved as a brother and whom he continued to see on the sly, since his wife, he did not know why, had grown angry at the charming fellow.

Anna had some sly reason for taking Andrew and Bitten to the cemetery island of San Michele, I had no doubt.

And they turned with sly, buckish grins to glance at Whitney, whose face now matched the wheezing red coals in the hearth beside her.

Then, leaping upon the horse, whose bridle he was holding, he forced it to rear, caracole and display its spirit and its paces before Domini, sitting it superbly, and shooting many sly glances at Suzanne, who leaned over the parapet of the verandah watching, with a rapt expression on her face.

He put on a sly grin and refused to respond to the goodnatured chiacking over supper.

I was not vain enough to suppose that they loved me, but I could well enough admit that my kisses had influenced them in the same manner that their kisses had influenced me, and, believing this to be the case, it was evident that, with a little cunning on my part, and of sly practices of which they were ignorant, I could easily, during the long night I was going to spend with them, obtain favours, the consequences of which might be very positive.

Marcoline knew how to manage her mezzaro so well that, though he was both seen and laughed at, the poor devil could not be certain that she had noticed him at all, and in addition the sly girl held me so closely by the arm that he must have concluded we were very intimate.

The sly puss went out quickly enough, but I was as sharp as she, and trod on the tail of her dress so that she could not shut the door after her.

Jael shivered with envy, and with nervousness, because she sensed in Dap a sly querying interest toward her now.

Veda, with a sly glint in her eyes, held her hand out to Darr Veter and lie lifted her out of the Lushes with an easy movement.

Fisher replied, waiting until his colleague had left the morgue before turning to Desai and offering a sly smile.

The excerpt that follows is an interesting example of how the lack of ftf cues can make it difficult to tell whether someone is intending humor or irony, and when they are being honest or sly.

Just then a sly breeze raised the curls from his eyes, And he woke from a dream to extatic surprise.