Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • suffix Like; resembling; having the characteristics of: sisterly.
  • suffix Recurring at a specified interval of time: hourly.
  • suffix In a specified manner; in the manner of: gradually.
  • suffix At a specified interval of time: weekly.
  • suffix With respect to: partly.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • suffix Used to form adjectives from nouns, the adjectives having the sense of "like or characteristic of what is denoted by the noun".
  • suffix Used to form adverbs from adjectives.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • suffix A suffix forming adjectives and adverbs, and denoting likeness or resemblance.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • An obsolete form of lie .
  • A common adjective suffix, forming, from nouns, adjectives signifying ‘of the form or nature of’ or ‘like’ the thing denoted by the noun: as in manly, womanly, godly, lordly, princely, of the nature of, like, or suited to a man, woman, etc.; bodily, earthly, daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, etc., belonging to or being of the body, the earth, a day, etc.; lovely, heartly (obs.), etc.
  • A common adverbial suffix, forming from adjectives adverbs signifying ‘in a manner’ denoted by the adjective: as, quickly, slowly, coldly, hotly, etc., loudly, harshly, etc.

Etymologies

Middle English -li, from Old English -līc (influenced by Old Norse -ligr); see līk- in Indo-European roots.
Middle English -li, from Old English -līce (influenced by Old Norse -liga), from -līc, adj. suff.; see līk- in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle English -ly, -li, -lich, from Old English -līċ, from Proto-Germanic *-līkaz (“having the body or form of”), from *līkan (“body”) (whence lich). Cognate with Dutch -lijk, German -lich and Swedish -lig, and with English -like (from Proto-Germanic *līka-). (Wiktionary)
From Old English -līċe. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • The principle of using a hyphen to avoid confusion explains why no hyphen is required with very and with -ly adverbs.

    Essential Guide to Business Style and Usage

  • If you never ponder how language works, you come to view an adverb as a word that ends in “-ly.”

    A Mind at a Time

  • On the stump and in press conferences, the former speaker of the House has a penchant for seasoning his speech with words that end in -ly.

    Breaking News: CBS News

  • FLATOW: So you get them to think differently that way, and he didn't use the "-ly" on his version of - to have sort of battles in the company to get the most creative ideas out.

    NPR Topics: News

  • Don’t use a hyphen between adverbs ending in -ly and the words they modify: a rapidly rising rate.

    Essential Guide to Business Style and Usage

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