9 Grammatical Pitfalls


[slahy] /slaɪ/
adjective, slyer or slier, slyest or sliest.
cunning or wily:
sly as a fox.
stealthy, insidious, or secret.
playfully artful, mischievous, or roguish:
sly humor.
on the sly, secretly; furtively:
a tryst on the sly.
Origin of sly
1150-1200; Middle English sly, sley < Old Norse slœgr sly, cunning
Related forms
slyly, slily, adverb
slyness, noun
unsly, adjective, unslyer or unslier, unslyest or unsliest.
unslyly, unslily, adverb
unslyness, noun
1. artful, subtle, foxy, crafty, shrewd, astute. 2. surreptitious, furtive, underhand, clandestine.
1. direct, obvious. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for sly
  • Simply, they're a clever way to capture sights and sounds on the sly while your subject remains none the wiser.
  • What separated him from a run-of-the-mansion celebrity portraitist is his offhand intimacy and sly wit.
  • Heck, if you want to be sly, duck into the confessional and discuss it in private out of view.
  • You're also pulling a sly trick when you compare safety versus coal plants.
  • For those who don't want to collect blood on the sly, gift certificates are available.
  • The poem in its mock heroics is a sly satire of the grand manner of the romantic epic.
  • Everything you need to set up an encrypted mesh network on the sly, all concealed inside an ordinary valise.
  • Along the way, he has honed a style of his own, a sly but ecstatic form of electronic pop.
  • The list of those who loved his sly, anarchic voice is long.
  • He can imitate a waiter bringing all his favorite foods, and he has a sly sense of verbal humor.
British Dictionary definitions for sly


adjective slyer, slyest, slier, sliest
crafty; artful: a sly dodge
insidious; furtive: a sly manner
playfully mischievous; roguish: sly humour
on the sly, in a secretive manner
Derived Forms
slyly, slily, adverb
slyness, noun
Word Origin
C12: from Old Norse slǣgr clever, literally: able to strike, from slā to slay
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 sly

c.1200, "skillful, clever, dexterous," from Old Norse sloegr "cunning, crafty, sly," from Proto-Germanic *slogis (cf. Low German slu "cunning, sly," German schlau), probably from base *slak- "to strike, hit" (see slay (v.)), with an original notion of "able to hit." Cf. German verschlagen "cunning, crafty, sly," schlagfertig "quick-witted," literally "strike-ready," from schlagen "to strike." A non-pejorative use of the word lingered in northern English dialect until 20c. On the sly "in secret" is recorded from 1812. Sly-boots "a seeming Silly, but subtil Fellow" is in the 1700 "Dictionary of the Canting Crew."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Idioms and Phrases with sly


see: on the sly
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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