Definition of burly in English:



  • (of a person) large and strong; heavily built:

    ‘I saw a burly figure approaching’
    ‘a big, burly man’
    • ‘Blanche looked at him, a big burly man with an abdomen that was bulging over his belt which seemed much too tight for him.’
    • ‘I saw one burly man whipping his horse with one of these and received a mouthful of abuse when I pleaded with him to stop.’
    • ‘At one point down York Street I saw a rugby ball fly over the road and some burly blokes by the Hook Line and Sinker tried to push a bus.’
    • ‘I sat cramped next to a burly fellow who obviously had a lot of faith in the medicinal qualities of garlic.’
    • ‘The singer Donovan turned up with his friend, a burly bloke called Gypsy.’
    • ‘A burly gentleman in plain clothes is insisting that we need a permit to photograph Burns outside Lenin's tomb.’
    • ‘Just eyeball some of those burly boys who stand menacingly in the doorways and you'll get my drift.’
    • ‘He is a tall, burly man in his early 40s, with cropped hair, a friendly grin and a firm handshake.’
    • ‘A large burly man was carrying a large rifle, his sword hanging by his waist, motioning to his men.’
    • ‘The burly man stared at him and took his arm, leading the young man across the street.’
    • ‘I could only grunt in response, as by that stage his two burly assistants had bundled me in to a chair and strapped me down.’
    • ‘There were four burly men at the table, miners by the look of them, men who delved in the earth.’
    • ‘Julian was watching a burly man with beard and sunburn make his way across the lobby.’
    • ‘She had been clamped by the time she got outside, and two burly men demanded £125 to have her car released.’
    • ‘In the next-door compound, a burly man was whacking a skinny boy with a thick stick.’
    • ‘If a burly gentleman doesn't challenge you to fisticuffs, the table is ready.’
    • ‘So I bombed out of the office, jumped into a cab and whizzed home, to find two burly men in overalls on the doorstep.’
    • ‘The burly men with biceps will be competing in the grand final in a series of face-to-face bouts.’
    • ‘He could then tell you that a couple of burly bobbies were hiding behind the hedge, stopwatch in hand, ready to bring you to book.’
    • ‘The burly Peter started at centre forward and played his part in the Kilkenny win.’
    strapping, well built, sturdy, sturdily built, powerfully built, broad-shouldered, brawny, strong, muscular, muscly, well muscled, athletic, thickset, big, hefty, bulky, robust, rugged, stocky, lusty, herculean, vigorous
    hunky, beefy, husky, hulking, ripped, shredded
    stalwart, thewy, stark
    View synonyms


Middle English (in the sense ‘dignified, imposing’): probably from an unrecorded Old English word meaning ‘stately, fit for the bower’(see bower, -ly).