Definition of sickly in US English:

sickly

adjective

  • 1Often ill; in poor health.

    ‘she was a thin, sickly child’
    • ‘While there were leaves, they were sickly and frail and barely hanging on from their branches.’
    • ‘‘Remove these weak and sickly ones,’ he commanded of the soldiers that accompanied him.’
    • ‘He had always been more comfortable with women; as a young boy, he was sickly and weak and preferred to stay at home with his mother and sisters rather than play with the boys.’
    • ‘Colonel Brandon mentions wearing one, and Marianne takes this as a sign he is old and sickly, and incapable of being a lover.’
    • ‘Physically he gives Alexei a gentle, frail, almost sickly presence that naturally arouses women's protective instincts.’
    • ‘In history books, one can find descriptions of this Bulgarian king as ‘weak, sickly, meek and a poor statesman’.’
    • ‘When I was a child, I was a weak, sickly little thing.’
    • ‘His wife is frail and sickly, and he is often without work.’
    • ‘During the 19th century it had a reputation in Britain as a restorative food for invalids and sickly children, and was added to their diet in various forms.’
    • ‘A real man, I used to say, no matter how sickly or incapacitated, should pick up a case by its handle and carry it like a man.’
    • ‘My true love returned a fortnight later, clearly shocked to see such a pale, weak and sickly frame propped up against a mountain of pillows.’
    • ‘The predator weeds out the weak and the sickly (those incapable of participation).’
    • ‘Rumoured to be sickly, deformed and incapable of producing heirs, Carlos was widely held to have only a few years to live.’
    • ‘It was a tough birth, and I was a frail, sickly infant.’
    • ‘The incessant screech grew in a massive crescendo of sound, and made Vincent's entire body feel sickly and weak.’
    • ‘Scrawny and pale, with a mop of scruffy black hair and watery grey eyes, he looked sickly and weak.’
    • ‘A baby that appeared weak or sickly at birth, or had even a minor birth defect such a cleft pallet, hair lip, or cleft foot, or was in some other way imperfect was killed.’
    • ‘King was a sickly child, once bedridden for a year, and at the age of four he one day returned home silently after playing with a friend and crawled into bed.’
    • ‘As a tyke, little Bobby Jones was a frail, sickly kid, living under the auspices of protective parents, and a Puritanical grandfather.’
    • ‘I left thoroughly turned-off by the film's weak, sickly ending.’
    unhealthy, in poor health, chronically ill, often ill, always ill
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    1. 1.1 (of a person's complexion or expression) indicative of poor health.
      ‘his usual sickly pallor’
      • ‘This King, of course, was a sickly neurotic, whom every day brought nearer to complete mental disability.’
      • ‘Her sun baked skin had deteriorated to a grey, sickly pallor and her eyes had lost its bright sparkle.’
      • ‘Looking over, he saw a sickly, shocked expression on Jack's face.’
      • ‘The sun never made quite an effect on him, resulting in a sickly pale complexion, which was the basis of many a taunt.’
      • ‘She could have easily passed for a corpse, complete with a sickly pale complexion and dark circles under blood-shot eyes.’
      • ‘When I was a baby, my eyes were as black as my hair and I recall my brothers calling me sickly for my pale pallor, though I was never ill.’
      • ‘Her figure was thin from undernourishment and her complexion a morose sickly gray.’
      • ‘Not only that, but his formerly vibrant face was now marred by a sickly pallor and shadows under his eyes.’
      • ‘He needed a shave, his complexion was pale and sickly and he looked drastically deprived of sleep.’
      • ‘He was described as having ‘a sickly, pasty complexion’.’
      • ‘Haru finally stated matter-of-factly; his face appearing childish from the sickly, sleepy expression he was wearing.’
      • ‘If there was anything to be salvaged from the situation, it might've been said to have been worth it for the sickly expression on Rupert's face.’
      pale, wan, pasty, colourless, sallow, pallid, white, waxen, ashen
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    2. 1.2literary (of a place, climate, or time) causing or characterized by unhealthiness.
      ‘a deep sickly vaporous swamp’
      • ‘Without them the place was sickly quiet, but Adam was too tired to do anything about it.’
      • ‘As his skin blackened, a sickly aroma exploded throughout the alley.’
      • ‘In the corner of his room a sickly yellow glow was permeating through his wall, passing though it and away.’
      • ‘So a bit of help from the sickly oil fields themselves is welcome.’
      • ‘Variations in vineyard temperatures deliver flavours ranging from apples to tinned pineapple or, in extreme circumstances, to sickly shrivelled sultanas.’
      • ‘The only sort of eye to be found in Dunham's paintings puts in an appearance in Beautiful Dirt Valley: the disembodied eye of heaven hovering in a sickly sky.’
      • ‘The yellow street lights caused the world to glow sickly as he moved through the downtown South District.’
      • ‘Aaron went back to his sickly field and farmhouse.’
  • 2(of a flavor, smell, color, or light) so unpleasant as to induce discomfort or nausea.

    ‘the walls were painted a sickly green’
    ‘she liked her coffee sweet and sickly’
    • ‘The walls were the same sickly colour, the smell was the same of dense human aromas, and my feelings of determination and acceptance were one and the same.’
    • ‘Usually I hated the sickly smell of vanilla but today it was soothing.’
    • ‘His normally pale skin was a sickly green colour with a glistening sheen of sweat, his hair flopped lifelessly as the ship lurched from side to side, his eyes were drooping and he looked exhausted.’
    • ‘In this state they contain small amounts of a poisonous alkaloid, and have a sickly, unpleasant smell and taste.’
    • ‘I entered the school and was met by the sweet, sickly smell of flowers and the dead.’
    • ‘The sickly sweet smell is inescapable at local rock shows…’
    • ‘Just round the corner we pass Camden Market, a hypermarket of henna and hemp, where the pavements are packed and there's a rather different sickly sweet smell in the air.’
    • ‘Bright white and blue flowers bloomed from them and smelled almost sickly sweet.’
    • ‘Her pale face stood out against the warm, creamy colours of the pillows and sheets, some of the smaller bruises starting to turn the sickly colour of yellow and brown.’
    • ‘There was a sickly sweet smell that surrounded it.’
    • ‘There was a sickly sweet smell surrounding them.’
    • ‘He feels like himself, but is trapped in a dog's body, describing in graphic detail the many pungent, metallic, meaty and sickly smells all around him.’
    • ‘When a bug has fed it emits a sickly sweet smell to attract hungry relatives: a giveaway sign of infestation.’
    • ‘I enjoyed my creme brûlée, although the excess sugar was a bit sickly.’
    • ‘It was soupy and gloopy, sickly and sour, and downright wonderful.’
    • ‘I've had a lot of anticlimactic hot chocolate drinks lately: they're all syrupy, sickly and goopy.’
    • ‘The atmosphere seemed stifling, the sweet, sickly smell in the air was unbearable.’
    • ‘Flora saw her chance, lunged, and ripped into Moonlights chest and pulled out her heart, which was glowing a sickly purple.’
    • ‘As I walked from work in the late winter Melbourne sunshine yesterday I smelled the sickly, sweet stench of death.’
    bilious, nauseating, distasteful, unattractive
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    1. 2.1 Excessively sentimental or mawkish.
      ‘a sickly fable of delicate young lovers’
      • ‘Hawley achieves the difficult task of walking the tightrope between sweet and sickly sweet, between sentiment and sentimentality.’
      • ‘The lyrics are so endearing, the sentiment so sickly sweet, that you can't help but sing along in faux earnest.’
      • ‘Behind all its smug hypocrisy and sickly sentimentality are the sinister outlines of the class war.’
      • ‘Describing an object, sentiment or situation which is cute in a sickly, laughable, boring, old, shudderingly childish and overly sweet way.’
      • ‘Your Silent Nights and Joy to the Worlds manage to be special and festive without first being coated with a cubic kilometre of sickly sentimentality.’
      • ‘Those with an aversion to sickly sentiment should look away now.’
      • ‘When he asked the question, he shifted back to a patronising, sickly treacle-sweet voice.’
      • ‘It displays the essence of Chopin's music that surely Fokine desired and rescues it from the sickly sentiment and yards of tulle that Les Sylphides usually heralds.’
      • ‘I support you for the comments you made, and am glad you haven't retracted your views on the sickly sentimentality which is demeaning and undermining the true Britishness of our country.’
      • ‘‘Bon,’ Mademoiselle Piera said from the table, flashing Ryan her best sickly saccharine smile.’
      sentimental, over-sentimental, overemotional, mawkish, cloying, sugary, syrupy, saccharine, sickening, nauseating, maudlin, lachrymose, banal, trite
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Origin

Late Middle English: probably suggested by Old Norse sjúkligr.

Pronunciation

sickly

/ˈsɪkli//ˈsiklē/