Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • adjective Possessing or displaying the qualities or characteristics that make something probable.
  • adjective Within the realm of credibility; plausible.
  • adjective Apparently appropriate or suitable.
  • adjective Apt to achieve success or yield a desired outcome; promising.
  • adjective Attractive; pleasant.
  • adverb Probably.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • Probably; as may reasonably be supposed.
  • 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.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

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

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

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

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

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

Etymologies

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

[Middle English likly, from Old English gelīclīc (from gelīc, similar) and from Old Norse līkligr (from līkr, similar); see līk- in Indo-European roots.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Old Norse líkligr, from líkr ("like, similar").

Examples

  • The banks that took care of their own loans wound up, long term, in a situation that was likely to be better; but only _likely_ some localities had bad luck, some banks got hit by other factors, and only if they actually were better at managing their localloans.

    The Volokh Conspiracy » Repeating the Mistakes of the Mortgage Crisis

  • If anything, that it was sold in stores and was *nevertheless* “likely” to prevail on a fair use defense, indicates to me that the same thing posted on a web page as fanfic would be *even more likely* to be fair use.

    Crimes of Fanfic « Whatever

  • If anything, that it was sold in stores and was *nevertheless* “likely” to prevail on a fair use defense, indicates to me that the same thing posted on a web page as fanfic would be *even more likely* to be fair use.

    Crimes of Fanfic « Whatever

  • He'll be doing his term likely in Yazoo City, Mississippi, which is near his home.

    CNN Transcript Jul 14, 2005

  • Natalee Holloway is a name likely to haunt a generation of U.S. parents.

    News - latimes.com

  • 'American Idol' auditions in Pittsburgh reveal one heck of a belter: Erika Van Pelt Reid Grimm impresses, and Travis Delgado and Holly Day wow them with big sob stories Jim Farber / DAILY NEWS MUSIC CRITIC Steven Tyler on "American Idol" Thursday, a phrase likely to resonate quite a ways down the "Idol" line.

    NYDN Rss

  • Newt Gingrich, out for revenge after being on the receiving end of a $4m £2.6m advertising battering from Romney in Iowa, did not hold back, accusing him of lying, being unelectable and, in a phrase likely to be remembered long after the campaign is over, of talking "pious baloney".

    The Guardian World News

  • Natalee Holloway is a name likely to haunt a generation of U.S. parents.

    News - latimes.com

  • Leading the Huskers to the title likely would've been enough to boost Frazier over George, whose Buckeyes lost to Tennessee in the Citrus Bowl.

    Scout.com > CollegeFootballNews.com

  • Rhimes: I don't know about the word "likely" possibly the last.

    Grey's Anatomy: Shonda Rhimes Talks Mer-Der's Struggle, Cristina's Pregnancy

Comments

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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