Definition of likely in English:

likely

adjective

  • 1Such as well might happen or be true; probable.

    ‘speculation on the likely effect of opting out’
    with clause ‘it was likely that he would make a televised statement’
    with infinitive ‘sales are likely to drop further’
    • ‘In that event it is likely that our own government will commit British troops in support.’
    • ‘A pathologist said it was likely that the boy had the condition for several days.’
    • ‘It is likely that many staff are already helping disabled customers as a matter of course.’
    • ‘It is likely that only some of our sample will agree to participate in the research.’
    • ‘If there were fewer drug addicts, it is likely that there would be fewer criminal offences.’
    • ‘It is likely that the coverage achieved in other surveillance systems is similar or lower.’
    • ‘It is likely that the unit will be based in their new control trailer, which is due to be completed next month.’
    • ‘In the event of a pandemic, it is likely that only infected people will be given the antivirals.’
    • ‘If the London bid fails then it is likely that a decision on an alternative host city will be made by next spring.’
    • ‘It is likely that any sanctions will be limited to travel bans and freezing of overseas accounts.’
    • ‘It is likely that many Australian homes do not even have a Bible, and those that do, leave it unread.’
    • ‘All being well, it is likely that we'll see Hedgehunter back to challenge next year.’
    • ‘An committee spokeswoman said it was likely that the York office would be closed by the end of the year.’
    • ‘It is likely that most of the conspirators had details of the plot drip-fed to them as the need arose.’
    • ‘Priest's conclusion was that it was likely that the metal was present in the food chain.’
    • ‘It is likely that O'Hara will be the only member of that side selected for Walker Cup duty.’
    • ‘It is likely that there are other chaperones that function in a similar manner.’
    • ‘We are still finalising the design but it is likely that these specific premises will be affected.’
    • ‘It is likely that the various schemes would be paid for with a mix of public cash and private investment.’
    • ‘If the legs move at each strain it is likely that the cow will calve without too much trouble.’
    probable, distinctly possible, to be expected, odds-on, on, possible, credible, plausible, believable, within the bounds of possibility, imaginable
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  • 2Apparently suitable; promising.

    ‘a likely-looking spot’
    • ‘It was my room, and the most likely reason he had stopped was that it was a bit of mess.’
    • ‘The sources the government prefers are likely to be seriously biased for several reasons.’
    • ‘I was just in a foul mood or something like that, most likely, so accept my humblest apologies.’
    • ‘Most of the rest is likely to be in bonds and gilts with cash and property making up the balance.’
    • ‘They may reason that they are more likely to die from malaria or be bitten by a snake well before then.’
    • ‘His opinion is not binding but is likely to be accepted by the court later this year.’
    • ‘One likely reason is that at the end of the day Bill just loves a good old-fashioned scrap.’
    • ‘I think a more likely reason is that many of his posts are failing the Boring Man in a Bar Test.’
    • ‘Had the report been accepted it is highly likely that the current crisis would have been avoided.’
    • ‘He had visited each member state to find out what major project was likely to be accepted by all of them.’
    • ‘People are more likely to accept risks when they feel that they are in the driving seat.’
    • ‘It is assumed that any blend of wines from the same property is likely to be harmonious.’
    • ‘Lenhoff thinks defensive shares are likely to continue to do well for three reasons.’
    • ‘One reason for Essex's likely limitation on imported labour is the high cost of housing.’
    • ‘There is reason to suppose the Court of Appeal would be likely to reach any contrary view.’
    • ‘Fay's apparent sweet tooth is likely to be rooted in a problem with blood sugar balance.’
    • ‘Use a bait that you have confidence in, and is likely to be accepted from the off.’
    • ‘Would it just have been more likely to have happened for some reason in this area?’
    • ‘The most likely reason is that it falls across some heat gradient in the house structure itself.’
    • ‘He accepted the Pythagorean position that a successful fit is not likely to be a coincidence.’
    suitable, appropriate, apposite, fit, fitting, acceptable, proper, right
    likely to succeed, promising, talented, gifted
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adverb

  • Probably.

    ‘we will most likely go to a bar’
    • ‘More than likely they'll do this via the telecommunications grid through a phone socket.’
    • ‘We thought, if we could get just one wall, it was likely we'd be able to hold on to it.’
    • ‘I explained it was most likely the blonde hair making my skin colour look different in contrast.’
    • ‘Now, it seems increasingly likely that you will soon topple sideways off the sofa arm and into the bin.’
    • ‘The case for affirmative action in Bermuda has likely been set back by years.’
    • ‘She thanked her supporters for running a "gentlemanly" campaign, but, she said, taking the high road on the campaign trail likely cost her votes.’
    • ‘Even if moving toward songwriting made it more likely I could cross over to the mainstream.’
    • ‘On overseas pitches he has at times been the only Indian likely to get any wickets at all.’
    • ‘Quite likely you'll end up with a broken arm, and at your age it will be a nasty break indeed.’
    • ‘By the laws of probability, the culprit was most likely an obnoxious American tourist.’
    probably, in all probability, presumably, no doubt, doubtlessly
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Usage

In standard British English, when likely is used as an adverb it must be preceded by a submodifier such as very, most, or more, as in we will most likely see him later. In informal US English, use without a submodifier is very common and not regarded as incorrect, as in we will likely see him later

Phrases

  • a likely story

    • Used to express disbelief of an account or excuse.

      ‘‘She's your lodger? A likely story!’’
      • ‘We knew your Government was seeking overseas bases, so we cooked up a likely story.’
      • ‘One of the characteristics of a reasonable explanation is that it be a likely story.’
      • ‘Craccum: rehashing news from the Dominion Post on the legal action, and ignoring a likely story about why the University of Auckland was the best in the country - research wise at least.’
      • ‘The gentleman told me his name was ‘John’, a likely story, I thought to myself and that it was his ‘sixth day at the gym’.’
      • ‘The Timaeus, however, presents itself not as serious cosmology but merely as a likely story, an example of the kind of account that Plato thinks is the right one to give; it is poetic and grandiose in style.’
      unlikely, implausible, unbelievable, incredible, untenable, unacceptable, inconceivable
      View synonyms
  • as likely as not

    • Probably.

      ‘I won't take their pills, because as likely as not they'd poison me’
      • ‘Even if somebody out there ends up reading what we write, as likely as not we'll complain that they've missed the point.’
      • ‘Stubborn insistence on such a strategy is as likely as not to end in one's own defeat.’
      • ‘If you're passing a truck driver on the road today, give them a wave because as likely as not, they'll be mourning the death of a troubadour they called their own, Slim Dusty.’
      • ‘Thus, part one of this book adopts the premise that natural theology shows it is at least as likely as not that there is a God of the sort argued for by classical theism.’
      • ‘This is just as likely as not to be due to a badly organised office.’
      • ‘However that may be, people who commit offences of this kind must understand that as likely as not, their lives and livelihood will be disrupted once the offence has been detected.’
      • ‘But a speeding motorist can kill an innocent child, and as likely as not, they will only face a small fine, points on their licence ó if they have one ó and a short driving ban.’
      • ‘References to almost every field of knowledge, from archaeology to zoology, are as likely as not to be wrong.’
      • ‘But in the big picture, it's as likely as not that he's looking to patch, not break, things up.’
      • ‘Books on Italian Renaissance prints do not come along very often, and when they do, as likely as not they are catalogues.’
  • not likely!

    • informal Certainly not; I refuse.

      ‘‘Are you going home?’ ‘Not likely!’’

Origin

Middle English: from Old Norse líkligr, from líkr (see like).

Pronunciation

likely

/ˈlʌɪkli/