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[sil-ee] /ˈsɪl i/
adjective, sillier, silliest.
weak-minded or lacking good sense; stupid or foolish:
a silly writer.
absurd; ridiculous; irrational:
a silly idea.
stunned; dazed:
He knocked me silly.
Cricket. (of a fielder or the fielder's playing position) extremely close to the batsman's wicket:
silly mid off.
Archaic. rustic; plain; homely.
Archaic. weak; helpless.
Obsolete. lowly in rank or state; humble.
noun, plural sillies.
Informal. a silly or foolish person:
Don't be such a silly.
Origin of silly
late Middle English
1375-1425; earlier sylie, sillie foolish, feeble-minded, simple, pitiful; late Middle English syly, variant of sely seely
Related forms
sillily, adverb
silliness, noun
unsilly, adjective
1. witless, senseless, dull-witted, dim-witted. See foolish. 2. inane, asinine, nonsensical, preposterous.
1. sensible. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for sillier
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Never make him look silly—any sillier than he can't help looking with that hair and that necktie he will wear.

    The Boy with Wings Berta Ruck
  • And did you ever come across a sillier tribe of people than these same rhapsodists?

    The Symposium Xenophon
  • “I ain't any sillier than anybody else, and you'll be just as silly yourself, so now,” said Rosamond.

    The Debtor Mary E. Wilkins Freeman
  • The guests were disgusted with the silly child, and sillier mother.

  • To feel your parent smaller and sillier than yourself is sad.

    Hester, Volume 1 (of 3) Margaret Oliphant
  • "We should probably be sillier without laws," Miss Marley observed.

    The Dark Tower Phyllis Bottome
  • "But it must be sillier than usual," said Harriet, and her voice began to quaver.

British Dictionary definitions for sillier


adjective -lier, -liest
lacking in good sense; absurd
frivolous, trivial, or superficial
dazed, as from a blow
(obsolete) homely or humble
(modifier) (cricket) (of a fielding position) near the batsman's wicket: silly mid-on
(informal) Also called silly-billy, (pl) -lies. a foolish person
Derived Forms
silliness, noun
Word Origin
C15 (in the sense: pitiable, hence the later senses: foolish): from Old English sǣlig (unattested) happy, from sǣl happiness; related to Gothic sēls good
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 sillier



Old English gesælig "happy, fortuitous, prosperous" (related to sæl "happiness"), from Proto-Germanic *sæligas (cf. Old Norse sæll "happy," Old Saxon salig, Middle Dutch salich, Old High German salig, German selig "blessed, happy, blissful," Gothic sels "good, kindhearted"), from PIE *sele- "of good mood; to favor," from root *sel- (2) "happy, of good mood; to favor" (cf. Latin solari "to comfort," Greek hilaros "cheerful, gay, merry, joyous").

This is one of the few instances in which an original long e (ee) has become shortened to i. The same change occurs in breeches, and in the American pronunciation of been, with no change in spelling. [Century Dictionary]
The word's considerable sense development moved from "happy" to "blessed" to "pious," to "innocent" (c.1200), to "harmless," to "pitiable" (late 13c.), "weak" (c.1300), to "feeble in mind, lacking in reason, foolish" (1570s). Further tendency toward "stunned, dazed as by a blow" (1886) in knocked silly, etc. Silly season in journalism slang is from 1861 (August and September, when newspapers compensate for a lack of hard news by filling up with trivial stories). Silly Putty trademark claims use from July 1949.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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