Definitions

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

  • adjective Clever or cunning, especially in the practice of deceit.
  • adjective Stealthy or surreptitious.
  • adjective Playfully mischievous.
  • idiom (on the sly) In a way intended to escape notice.

from The Century Dictionary.

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

  • adjective Dexterous in performing an action, so as to escape notice; nimble; skillful; cautious; shrewd; knowing; -- in a good sense.
  • adjective Artfully cunning; secretly mischievous; wily.
  • adjective Done with, and marked by, artful and dexterous secrecy; subtle.
  • adjective obsolete Light or delicate; slight; thin.
  • adjective [Colloq.] in a sly or secret manner.
  • adjective (Zoöl.) the common sheldrake; -- so named from its craftiness.
  • adverb Obs. or Poetic Slyly.

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

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

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

  • adjective marked by skill in deception

Etymologies

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

[Middle English sleigh, from Old Norse slœgr.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

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.

Examples

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