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

  • adj. Of, relating to, or devoted to the temporal world.
  • adj. Experienced in human affairs; sophisticated or worldly-wise: "an experienced and worldly man who had been almost everywhere” ( Willa Cather).
  • adv. In a worldly manner.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Concerned with human or earthly matters, physical as opposed to spiritual.
  • adj. Concerned with secular rather than sacred matters.
  • adj. Sophisticated, especially because of surfeit; versed in the ways of the world.
  • adv. In a worldly manner.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Relating to the world; human; common
  • adj. Pertaining to this world or life, in contradistinction from the life to come; secular; temporal; devoted to this life and its enjoyments; bent on gain.
  • adj. Lay, as opposed to clerical.
  • adv. With relation to this life; in a worldly manner.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Of or pertaining to the world or the present state of existence; temporal; earthly.
  • Secular: opposed to monastic.
  • Devoted to, interested in, or connected with this present life, and its cares, advantages, or pleasures, to the exclusion of those of a future life; desirous of temporal benefit or enjoyment merely; earthly, as opposed to heavenly or spiritual; carnal; sordid; vile: as, worldly lusts, cares, affections, pleasures; worldly men.
  • =Syn.1. Mundane, terrestrial, sublunary.
  • 1 and Worldly, Secular, Temporal, Earthly, Earthy, Unspiritual, Carnal. Worldly means of the world, in fact or in spirit, in distinction from that which is above the world; as applying to mind, it indicates a pleasure in the things that belong to the external life and a disregard of spiritual or even intellectual pleasures: it is opposed to spiritual, expressing positively what unspiritual expresses negatively. Secular is opposed to sacred or to ecclesiastical: as, there are six secular days in the week; the secular arm. Secular and temporal are rarely used in a bad sense. Temporal is opposed to spiritual or eternal: as, lords temporal; merely temporal concerns. Earthly has, like worldly, the sense of mundane, but in the sense of unspirituality it suggests more of grossness or groveling, a thought which is carried still further by earthy, although earthy is not often used in that sense. Carnal suggests that which belongs to the gratification of the animal nature; it ranges from the merely unspiritual to the sensual. See sensual and temporal.
  • In a worldly manner; with relation to this life.

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

  • adj. characteristic of or devoted to the temporal world as opposed to the spiritual world
  • adj. very sophisticated especially because of surfeit; versed in the ways of the world


Sorry, no etymologies found.


  • The worldly mother who plans for the advancement of a family, and sacrifices solid enjoyments for a splendid alliance, is only _worldly_ wise, yet in that manoeuvring and worldly prudence there is the exercise of a self-control which raises her above the mere giddy pleasure-hunter of the hour; for want of self-control is the weakness of our nature -- to restrain, to wait, to control present feeling with a large foresight, is human strength.

    Sermons Preached at Brighton Third Series

  • He had been everywhere and had seen everything, and was full of what we call worldly wisdom.

    The Confessions of a Beachcomber

  • It has proved to be the most wonderful fabric of what we call worldly wisdom that our world has seen, -- controlling kings, dictating laws to ancient monarchies, and binding the souls of millions with a more perfect despotism than Oriental emperors ever sought or dreamed.

    Beacon Lights of History

  • Prince Charles made his own flub during the recitation of his vows, promising to share "all his goods" with his new wife, but accidentally omitting the word "worldly."

    ABC News: Top Stories

  • But the god referenced cannot be the deist God, since the government cannot really be “under” a god who takes no interest in worldly affairs.

    The Volokh Conspiracy » Ninth Circuit Upholds “Under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance,

  • It can be very difficult at times, when ignorant people in worldly society make negative comments about how my children will be unprepared to live in the world.

    The Gentle Approach to Homemaking

  • To "establish a Kingdom of God on Earth" implies a sort of militaristic vanity, a literal idea of a shining city on a hill in worldly terms.

    Prepare ye the way of the Lord

  • To chapter 4, paragraph 1The quattrocento experienced an increased valuation of and investment in worldly pursuits, including the products of the mechanical arts.

    Architecture and Memory: The Renaissance Studioli of Federico da Montefeltro

  • "Love, Women, and War" Redbeard opines that women "are incapable of self-mastership ... mere babies in worldly concerns."


  • Know that one who lacketh experience in worldly matters readily falleth into misfortune; and whoso considereth not the end keepeth not the world to friend, and the vulgar say: — I was lying at mine ease: nought but my officiousness brought me unease.

    The Book of The Thousand Nights And A Night


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  • I find this adjective very interesting in terms of its connotational semantics. Part of a religious upbringing set Century #4 as the chief definition in my mind, thus establishing it as a negative adjective; but most instances I hear nowadays are along the lines of American Heritage #2, a generally positive attribution. Nevertheless I retain a negative impression on hearing this word and have to artificially remember its positive use.

    July 26, 2011