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

  • adj. Possessing or displaying the qualities or characteristics that make something probable: They are likely to become angry with him.
  • adj. Within the realm of credibility; plausible: not a very likely excuse.
  • adj. Apparently appropriate or suitable: There were several likely candidates for the job.
  • adj. Apt to achieve success or yield a desired outcome; promising: a likely topic for investigation.
  • adj. Attractive; pleasant: found a likely spot under a shady tree for the picnic.
  • adv. Usage Problem Probably.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. probable; having a greater-than-even chance of occurring
  • adj. probable; Possessing or displaying the qualities or characteristics that make something probable
  • adj. appropriate, suitable; believable; having a good potential
  • adj. plausible; Within the realm of credibility
  • adj. promising; Apt to achieve success or yield a desired outcome
  • adj. attractive; pleasant
  • adj. Reasonably to be expected; apparently destined.
  • adv. Similarly.
  • adv. Probably.
  • n. Something or somebody considered likely.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Worthy of belief; probable; credible.
  • adj. Having probability; having or giving reason to expect; -- followed by the infinitive.
  • adj. Similar; like; alike.
  • adj. Such as suits; good-looking; pleasing; agreeable; handsome.
  • adj. Having such qualities as make success probable; well adapted to the place; promising
  • adj. Improbable; unlikely; -- used ironically.
  • adv. In all probability; probably.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Similar; congenial; kindred.
  • That may be suitable; preferred for a particular reason or purpose; fit or adapted, or giving promise of being so: as, a likely subject for satire.
  • Having likeness to truth; that seems or that may be true; credible; probable: as, a likely story.
  • Hence Within the limits of probability; having a tendency; so situated or constituted that he or it will probably be or do something indicated: followed by an infinitive.
  • Liable to happen or come about; in prospect or expectation.
  • Such as may be liked; likable; pleasing; agreeable; commendable; promising; good.
  • Synonyms Apt, Likely, etc. See apt.
  • Probably; as may reasonably be supposed.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adj. has a good chance of being the case or of coming about
  • adj. expected to become or be; in prospect
  • adv. with considerable certainty; without much doubt
  • adj. within the realm of credibility
  • adj. likely but not certain to be or become true or real


Middle English likly, from Old English gelīclīc (from gelīc, similar) and from Old Norse līkligr (from līkr, similar); see līk- in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Old Norse líkligr, from líkr ("like, similar"). (Wiktionary)


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  • In BrE this has the peculiar grammatical property that as an adverb it can't occur on its own: it has to be premodified by another adverb. So we can say that it will very/quite/more likely happen tomorrow, but not that *it will likely happen tomorrow. The latter is of course normal in AmE. As an adjective there's no such restriction: it is likely to happen, and it is very/quite/more likely to happen.

    Whereas 'probably' behaves quite normally: it will probably happen.

    September 2, 2008