Pronunciation Adjective

silly (comparative sillier, superlative silliest)

  1. Laughable or amusing through foolishness or a foolish appearance.
    • 1600, William Shakespeare, Midsummer Night's Dream, Act V, Scene i, line 209:
      This is the silliest stuffe, that euer I heard.
    • 1970, Graham Chapman & al., Monty Python's Flying Circus, I, 183:
      Well sir, I have a silly walk and I'd like to obtain a Government grant to help me develop it.
    1. (of numbers, particularly prices) Absurdly large.
      • 1875 June 26, Saturday Review, 815/2:
        He cannot achieve celebrity by covering himself with diamonds... or by giving a silly price for a hack.
  2. (chiefly, Scottish, obsolete) Blessed, particularly:
    1. Good; pious.
      • ante 1450 Seven Sages, line 1361:
        The sylyman lay and herde,
        And hys wyf answerd.
    2. Holy.
  3. (now, chiefly, Scottish and northern England, rare) Pitiful, inspiring compassion, particularly:
    • 1556 in 1880, William Henry Turner, Selections from the Records of the City of Oxford... 1509–83, 246:
      The fire raging upon the silly Carcase.
    1. (now, literary) Innocent; suffering undeservedly, especially as an epithet of lambs and sheep.
      • ante 1475 in 1925, Rossell Hope Robbins, Secular Lyrics of the 14th & 15th Centuries, 109:
        There is no best in þe word, I wene...
        That suffuris halfe so myche tene
        As doth þe sylly wat#Middle English|wat.
      • ante 1513 William Dunbar, Poems, 247:
        In the silly lambis skin He crap als far as he micht win.
    2. (now, literary) Helpless, defenseless.
      • 1539, Richard Morison translating Juan Luis Vives, Introduction to Wysedome:
        Wherfore Christe must soo moche the more instantelye be sought vpon, that he may vouchsafe to defende vs sylly wretches.
      • 1665, Thomas Manley translating Hugo Grotius, De Rebus Belgicis, 938:
        There remained fresh Examples of their Barbarism against weak Sea-men, and silly Fisher-men.
    3. Insignificant, worthless, (chiefly, Scottish) especially with regard to land quality.
      • ante 1500 Robert Henryson translating Aesop, "Two Mice":
        Ane sillie scheill vnder ane erdfast stane
      • 1595, William Shakespeare, The third Part of King Henry the Sixt, vvith the death of the Duke of Yorke, Act III, Scene iii, line 93:
        ...A pettigree
        Of threescore and two yeares a sillie time,
        To make prescription for a kingdomes worth.
      • 1907, Transactions of the Highland & Agricultural Society, 19, 172:
        It is naturally very poor, ‘silly’ land.
    4. Weak, frail; flimsy (use concerning people and animals is now obsolete).
      • 1567, John Maplet, A Greene Forest:
        Here we see that a smal sillie Bird knoweth how to match with so great a Beast.
      • 1587, Philip Sidney & al. translating Philippe de Mornay, A Woorke Concerning the Trewnesse of the Christian Religion, xxxii, 596:
        [Christ] leaueth neither Children nor kinsfolke behind him to vphold his sillie kingdome.
      • 1946 in 1971, Scottish National Dictionary, Vol. VIII, 234/3:
        That'll never grow. It's ower silly.
    5. Sickly; feeble; infirm.
      • 1636, Alexander Montgomerie, The Cherrie & the Slae, line 1512:
        To doe the thing we can
        To please...
        This silly sickly man.
      • 1818, Walter Scott, "Heart of Mid-Lothian", v:
        Is there ony thing you would particularly fancy, as your health seems but silly?
  4. (now, rural UK, rare) Simple, plain, particularly:
    1. Rustic, homely.
      • 1570, John Foxe, Actes & Monumentes, Vol. II, 926/1:
        Dauid had no more but a sylie slynge, and a few stones.
    2. (obsolete) Lowly, of humble station.
      • ante 1547 the Earl of Surrey translating Publius Virgilius Maro, Certain Bokes of Virgiles Aeneis, Book II:
        The silly herdman all astonnied standes.
      • 1568, Alexander Scott, Poems, 27:
        So luvaris lair no leid suld lak,
        A lord to lufe a silly lass.
  5. Mentally simple, foolish, particularly:
    1. (obsolete) Rustic, uneducated, unlearned.
      • 1687, Archibald Lovell translating Jean de Thévenot, The Travels of Monsieur de Thevenot into the Levant, i, 2:
        From Hell (of which the silly people of the Country think the top of this hill to be the mouth).
    2. Thoughtless, lacking judgment.
      • 1576, Abraham Fleming translating Sulpicius, A Panoplie of Epistles, 24:
        Wee sillie soules, take the matter too too heauily.
      • 1841, Charles Dickens, Barnaby Rudge, iii, 252:
        ‘Heaven help this silly fellow,’ murmured the perplexed locksmith.
      • 1972, George Lucas & al., American Graffiti, 8:
        Steve, don't be silly. I mean social intercourse.
      • 1990, House of Cards, Season 1, Episode 3:
        Framed? Framed? Oh, grow up, Mattie. The truth is that everyone is sillier than you could possibly imagine they'd be. What a dickhead.
    3. (Scottish) Mentally retarded.
      • 1568, Christis Kirk on Grene:
        Fow ȝellow ȝellow wes hir heid bot scho of lufe wes sillie.
      • 1814, Walter Scott, Waverley, III, xvi, 237:
        Davie's no just like other folk... but he's no sae silly as folk tak him for.
    4. Stupefied, senseless; stunned or dazed.
      • 1829 January 17, Lancaster Gazette:
        You say you were knocked silly—was that so?
      • 1907, John Millington Synge, Playboy of the Western World, iii, 64:
        Drinking myself silly...
      • 1942, J. Chodorov & al., Junior Miss, ii, i, 113:
        Well, Judy, now that you've scared me silly, what's so important?
      • 1990, House of Cards, Season 1, Episode 2:
        I can kick this stuff any time I like. I tell you what. Get this week over, we'll go to a health farm for ten days. No drugs. No drink. And shag ourselves silly. How about that?
  6. (cricket, of a fielding position) Very close to the batsman, facing the bowler; closer than short.
    • 1862 July 4, Notts. Guardian:
      Carpenter now placed himself at silly-point for Grundy, who was playing very forward.
Synonyms Antonyms Translations Translations Translations Translations
  • French: abruti
  • Portuguese: semiconsciente, aéreo
  • Spanish: semiaturdido
Translations Adverb

silly (comparative sillier, superlative silliest)

  1. (now, regional or colloquial) Sillily: in a silly manner.
    • 1731, Colley Cibber, Careless Husband, 7th ed., i, i, 21:
      If you did but see how silly a Man fumbles for an Excuse, when he's a little asham'd of being in Love.

silly (plural sillies)

  1. (colloquial) A silly person.
    • 1807 May, Scots Magazine, 366/1:
      While they, poor sillies, bid good night,
      O' love an' bogles eerie.
  2. (affectionate, gently pejorative) A term of address.
    • 1918 September, St. Nicholas, 972/2:
      ‘Come on, silly,’ said Nannie.
  3. (colloquial) A mistake.

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