Definition of surly in English:



  • Bad-tempered and unfriendly.

    ‘the porter left with a surly expression’
    • ‘When I first got him, he was a surly little puppy who could stand in my two hands.’
    • ‘My failure to appear on that specific date seemed to fluster the rather surly man who had to search for the card.’
    • ‘You are foul, surly, nasty, unhelpful, unpleasant and clearly you have a lot of issues.’
    • ‘A surly teenage chick with a sidekick boyfriend stopped me and started babbling.’
    • ‘We are pretty sure surly activity and passive disdain isn't the way to happiness.’
    • ‘Then they came to confiscate the film but balked because the soundman looked huge and surly.’
    • ‘Some that have met him have found him temperamental and surly.’
    • ‘Marjorie Campbell plays a sour and surly chambermaid that scores laughs galore.’
    • ‘When I get back to my hotel the surly doorman, who has never been known to stray from his fully enclosed cubicle, grunts at me.’
    • ‘Possibly affected by the adulation, he became more surly and confused.’
    • ‘After a while a sunny day strikes you as slightly idiotic, and you need a nice surly day to keep you balanced.’
    • ‘Customer service on this flight was indifferent rather than the usual surly.’
    • ‘While normally I love a good storm, I couldn't have been more surly last night.’
    • ‘He can be petulant, and there have been surly exchanges with fans.’
    • ‘The two youngest seemed somewhat surly for a good portion of the day, and I don't know what was going on.’
    • ‘He walks around being very surly and is very much a figure of hate.’
    • ‘The day-time guard at the entrance to our village is the most grumpy and surly man.’
    • ‘Instead of the often surly and obsessed golfer with a dodgy sense of humour a more humble and accessible golfer came to light.’
    • ‘Vending machines make it easy to avoid surly service at mom-and-pop convenience stores.’
    • ‘There was no clearer indication of this aggressive new stance than the surly attitude taken towards Germany.’
    bad-tempered, ill-natured, grumpy, glum, crotchety, prickly, cantankerous, irascible, testy, ill-tempered, short-tempered, ungracious, splenetic, choleric, dyspeptic, bilious, crusty, abrupt, brusque, curt, gruff, blunt, churlish, ill-humoured, crabbed, crabby, uncivil, morose, dour, sullen, sulky, moody, moping, sour, unfriendly, unpleasant, scowling, unsmiling
    humourless, disrespectful
    chippy, grouchy
    View synonyms


Mid 16th century (in the sense ‘lordly, haughty, arrogant’): alteration of obsolete sirly (see sir, -ly).