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[lahyk-lee] /ˈlaɪk li/
adjective, likelier, likeliest.
probably or apparently destined (usually followed by an infinitive):
something not likely to happen.
seeming like truth, fact, or certainty; reasonably to be believed or expected; believable:
a likely story.
seeming to fulfill requirements or expectations; apparently suitable:
a likely place for a restaurant.
showing promise of achievement or excellence; promising:
a fine, likely young man.
We will likely stay home this evening.
Origin of likely
1250-1300; Middle English likli < Old Norse līkligr. See like1, -ly
Can be confused
apt, likely (see synonym study at apt; see usage note at the current entry)
3. appropriate.
Usage note
Likely in the senses “probably destined” and “probably” is often preceded by a qualifying word like very, more, or quite: The board is very likely to turn down the request. The new system will quite likely increase profits. However, despite statements to the contrary in some usage guides, likely in these senses is standard without such a qualifier in all varieties of English: It will likely be a bitter debate. The shipment will likely arrive on Thursday. See also apt, liable. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for likeliest
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • So why should the likeliest lass in all the West Country say nay?

    Katerfelto G. J. Whyte-Melville
  • I incline to this opinion, the likeliest of all in the absence of exact information.

  • Where, Mary, do you think is the likeliest place for the dragon?

    Insect Stories Vernon L. Kellogg
  • In pursuance of this notion they resolved to watch the likeliest ports.

  • Such appears to be the likeliest account of this period, although our knowledge is not complete.

    The Life of Napoleon Bonaparte William Milligan Sloane
British Dictionary definitions for likeliest


(usually foll by an infinitive) tending or inclined; apt: likely to rain
probable: a likely result
believable or feasible; plausible
appropriate for a purpose or activity
having good possibilities of success: a likely candidate
(dialect, mainly US) attractive, agreeable, or enjoyable: her likely ways won her many friends
probably or presumably
as likely as not, very probably
Usage note
Likely as an adverb is preceded by another, intensifying adverb, as in it will very likely rain or it will most likely rain. Its use without an intensifier, as in it will likely rain is regarded as unacceptable by most users of British English, though it is common in colloquial US English
Word Origin
C14: from Old Norse līkligr
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for likeliest



c.1300, perhaps from Old Norse likligr "likely," from likr "like" (see like (adj.)). Old English had cognate geliclic. Meaning "having the appearance of being strong and capable" is from mid-15c., though now mostly confined to American English; according to OED this sense is perhaps influenced by like (v.). Sense of "good-looking" is from late 15c. Meaning "probably" is attested from late 14c., now principally in American English.

LIKELY. That may be liked; that may please; handsome. In the United States, as a colloquial term, respectable; worthy of esteem; sensible.--Worcester. [Bartlett]
As an adverb, late 14c., from the adjective.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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