Definition of lightly in US English:



  • 1Gently, delicately or softly.

    ‘she placed her hand lightly on my shoulder’
    • ‘He lifted the needle from her back to pinch her upper arm lightly.’
    • ‘Still, we touched each other lightly, and my right front tyre was slit in the process.’
    • ‘Take another of the bags and make it into a tie by pulling lightly on diagonal corners.’
    • ‘Darcy raised a hand to brush her face lightly.’
    • ‘Frankie took her hand and lightly brushed it.’
    • ‘He lightly rapped his knuckles on the passenger window of the lone car.’
    • ‘"Right over there, sugar," Angel said, lifting the little girl up, and placing her lightly on the ground.’
    • ‘In an auditorium in Taipei, about 400 relatives also took part in a Buddhist ceremony with monks chanting softly and drumming lightly on wooden blocks.’
    • ‘Sarah repeats the knock, less lightly.’
    • ‘Around the front door was a jumble of wild roses and he went up the path and knocked lightly.’
    • ‘William was too caught up in the lively creature, whose well-manicured hands flew lightly over the keys.’
    • ‘You say you have finger problems, but actually, a fingertip grip makes it easier to grip the ball lightly than a conventional grip.’
    • ‘Starting at the ceiling, lightly press the tape into the corner.’
    • ‘From fairway bunkers, take one club longer than normal, position the ball back in your stance and grip the club lightly.’
    • ‘Bend the toes of your right foot back, bend your knee, and let the sole of your right foot come lightly into contact with your opponent's abdomen.’
    • ‘Liz reaches up and lightly shuts Jason's jaw.’
    • ‘After he was dressed he kissed his sister lightly on the forehead, headed to the stables where he found his ever-ready steed.’
    • ‘He took my hand and lightly kissed it.’
    • ‘Elizabeth found it difficult to keep the pleading tone suppressed in her voice as she touched her friend's free hand lightly.’
    • ‘Then she actually began to slap my arm lightly - not very hard, just enough to provoke me.’
    softly, gently, faintly, delicately
    sparingly, slightly, sparsely, moderately, softly, thinly, delicately
    without severe punishment, easily, leniently, mildly
    carelessly, airily, readily, heedlessly, without consideration, uncaringly, indifferently, unthinkingly, thoughtlessly, flippantly, facilely, breezily, frivolously
    View synonyms
  • 2In relatively small amounts or in low density; sparingly.

    ‘it was snowing lightly’
    • ‘All three facilities, built by the Soviet Union, have been in mothballs or lightly used in recent years.’
    • ‘Lightly flour the pan, knocking out any excess flour; set aside.’
    • ‘However, don't thin at all if your tree is bearing lightly this year.’
    • ‘This extremely winter-hardy species thrives in a lightly shaded location.’
    • ‘Crush and add the garlic along with the grated ginger and stir fry for about 3 minutes until lightly browned.’
    • ‘These 5 subjects were placed in the lightly exposed group, yielding a total of 11 subjects who were lightly exposed to tobacco smoke.’
    • ‘Melt the butter in a saucepan and fry the until lightly browned on all sides.’
    • ‘Vast, mountainous, woody, and lightly populated, Algeria offered terrain favorable to guerrilla warfare.’
    • ‘I also prune lightly between flowering cycles.’
    • ‘This is a brilliant accompaniment for sizzling, crisp breaded chicken and Parmesan fillets, served with deep fried lightly battered cauliflower sprigs.’
    • ‘We also sampled the roasted asparagus and red pepper appetizer, a refreshingly simple plate of vegetables served cold and lightly drizzled with a tangy topping.’
    • ‘Spoon the batter into a preheated, lightly greased griddle or frying pan.’
    • ‘They were not expecting trouble and a lightly equipped token force accompanied the King.’
    • ‘To encourage compactness and flowering, prune around the edges of the plant and very lightly over the top.’
    • ‘Roll each part on a lightly floured surface into a large rectangle.’
    • ‘Lightly scatter your seeds by hand on the prepared soil.’
    • ‘The haddock was perfectly flaky and moist, lightly topped with bread crumbs, and served over sauteed spinach and sage mashed potatoes.’
    • ‘Use your hands or a wooden spoon to toss so that the vegetables are lightly coated with oil.’
    • ‘Cook over a low heat until the mixture barely thickens and lightly coats the back of the spoon.’
    • ‘The cake may be served fresh or, after 2 or 3 days will be excellent if sliced and lightly toasted.’
  • 3In a way that is not serious or solemn; carelessly.

    ‘it is not something that should be taken lightly’
    • ‘We shouldn't take that responsibility lightly.’
    • ‘Divorce is a decision that's not to be made lightly.’
    • ‘Going to war isn't something we do lightly.’
    • ‘Yes, nonprofit organization offers certain legal protections to the artifacts and the collection, and these are not to be taken lightly.’
    • ‘You and Mr. Darcy are not so different in temperament that you may treat your disagreements lightly.’
    • ‘You have been correct in your assumption, Jane doesnt take things lightly.’
    • ‘Such enormous guilt, such responsibility could not be taken lightly.’
    • ‘To be tested in the key hunting grounds of the London orchestras at such an early stage in his career was not something the Scot took lightly.’
    • ‘Her death, which was handled a bit lightly - I feel it needed more gravitas - altered the arc of the show once again.’
    • ‘Endorsing a political candidate is not something we take lightly.’
    • ‘Assault should never be taken lightly.’
    • ‘"People don't sign contracts lightly, and rarely pull out as they lose their deposit," he said.’
    • ‘Responsible people like police, paramedics and teachers will not take the step of passing on suspicions of child abuse lightly.’
    • ‘Attracting the spending power of employees and trainees to the area should not be dismissed lightly.’
    • ‘This is too sensitive a time to be taking such matters lightly.’
    • ‘The costs of blocking immigration cannot be lightly dismissed.’
    • ‘You speak so lightly of capturing and shooting prize vessels!’
    • ‘The 24-week limit should stay, on the grounds that women do not undertake terminations lightly.’
    • ‘Following Jesus is not something anyone should undertake lightly.’
    • ‘They don't throw those terms around lightly.’
  • 4Without severe punishment; leniently.

    ‘some people are let off lightly’
    • ‘Meanwhile those responsible for the workers misery and the trade in human beings seem to get off lightly - once again.’
    • ‘It seems all too often that the evil doers are let off lightly.’
    • ‘Park said they were lucky to escape so lightly.’