Definitions

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

  • adj. Clever or cunning, especially in the practice of deceit.
  • adj. Stealthy or surreptitious: took a sly look at the letter on the table.
  • adj. Playfully mischievous: a sly laugh.
  • idiom on the sly In a way intended to escape notice: took extra payments on the sly.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

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

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Dexterous in performing an action, so as to escape notice; nimble; skillful; cautious; shrewd; knowing; -- in a good sense.
  • adj. Artfully cunning; secretly mischievous; wily.
  • adj. Done with, and marked by, artful and dexterous secrecy; subtle.
  • adj. Light or delicate; slight; thin.
  • adv. Slyly.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • . Cunning; skilful; shrewd.
  • Meanly artful; insidious; crafty.
  • Playfully artful; knowing; having an intentionally transparent artfulness.
  • Artfully and delicately wrought; cunning; ingenious.
  • Thin; fine; slight; slender.
  • Illicit: as, sly grog (liquor made in illicit stills).
  • Synonyms and
  • Cunning, Artful, Sly, etc. (sec cunning).
  • Roguish, playful, waggish.

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

  • adj. marked by skill in deception

Etymologies

Middle English sleigh, from Old Norse slœgr.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle English sly, sley, from Old Norse slǣgr, slœgr ("sly, cunning", literally "capable of hitting or striking"), from Proto-Germanic *slōgiz (“lively, agile, cunning, sly, striking”), from Proto-Indo-European *slak- (“to hit, throw”). Cognate with Icelandic slægur ("crafty, sly"), Norwegian Nynorsk sløg ("sly"), German schlau ("clever, crafty"). Related to sleight, slay. (Wiktionary)

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