Definition of silly in US English:



  • 1Having or showing a lack of common sense or judgment; absurd and foolish.

    ‘another of his silly jokes’
    ‘“Don't be silly!” she said’
    • ‘They are truly silly, absurd films, intended primarily to make people laugh.’
    • ‘I had assumed that everyone (and Jessica in particular) would understand my comment as a silly joke.’
    • ‘It was silly, extremely foolish and childish of me.’
    • ‘She would guide me through the difficult parts and ridicule my silly mistakes.’
    • ‘So it was a history of Britain with lots of silly jokes.’
    • ‘Monday's story in the Wall Street Journal about Academy DVD screeners and their vulnerability to piracy was slightly silly.’
    • ‘She felt slightly silly, saying these things in front of her husband, but didn't care.’
    • ‘This silly man is being abused, ridiculed and punished for having flouted his own moral principles, and then being idiotic enough to confess it.’
    • ‘Yes, it is all a bit familiar - but, sadly, nowhere near as delightfully absurd and unrepentantly silly as the Ghostbusters movies.’
    • ‘Obviously this is silly and common sense must prevail, so it is the interpretation of the law that becomes all-important, but it is in this interpretation where we have the inconsistency.’
    • ‘It's a very bold move, and some would suggest a slightly silly one.’
    • ‘What I can't understand is why we just can't leave people to live their lives in peace, unscathed by our silly, ridiculous prejudices.’
    • ‘The bombast, condescension, arrogance and swagger all seems slightly silly in retrospect.’
    • ‘I felt slightly silly as I remained in my chair, watching everyone dancing and having fun.’
    • ‘There's a skinny, floppy-haired scamp on stage wearing a slightly silly outfit.’
    • ‘We will always end up looking slightly silly, because we will be dealing with them after the event, when all the protagonists have run for cover and it is very difficult to get to the basis of what happened.’
    • ‘I don't have any obvious answers to this riddle - or at least, none that aren't wearing silly tinfoil hats.’
    • ‘We are frail, we are human, we make mistakes, we do foolish things, silly things.’
    • ‘A seriously slight but enjoyably silly teen hit manages to deliver a healthy second dose of college chuckles - without changing a thing.’
    • ‘The cartoons inject humour, while the writing is crystal-clear and direct - it never relies on silly jokes and is never patronising.’
    foolish, stupid, unintelligent, idiotic, brainless, mindless, witless, imbecilic, imbecile, doltish
    unwise, imprudent, thoughtless, foolish, stupid, idiotic, senseless, mindless, fatuous
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    1. 1.1 Ridiculously trivial or frivolous.
      ‘he would brood about silly things’
      • ‘But it's not automatically rendered trivial and silly, just because it's about a household animal.’
      • ‘None of these cost much or had much relevance but collectively, in a period where morale was weak, they were silly, petty little annoyances that were easy to avoid.’
      • ‘For decades, petty rules, silly laws and frivolous lawsuits held no power over Common Sense.’
      • ‘After reading these… my explanation seems silly and trivial.’
      • ‘It's a deeply silly and trivial entertainment cheerfully devoid of any nutritional or calorific value whatever.’
      • ‘You should hear how men howl at this finding: What a trivial excuse, how silly.’
      • ‘That might sound unnecessarily silly or trivial, but it's been a serious point of contention.’
      • ‘It's probably silly and frivolous, but maybe you want to respond.’
      • ‘And I had this thought, which I hope doesn't sound too silly or too frivolous or disrespectful of a disaster.’
      • ‘That is just frivolous and silly, and I ask the member to stand and withdraw and apologise for that comment.’
      • ‘Brainball may seem like a ridiculously silly game, but it demonstrates how a machine can know something about your emotional state.’
      • ‘Be clear that your child should tell you straight away if anything unusual or frightening has happened, even if it seems silly or trivial to him and especially if he's been told not to tell.’
      • ‘A variation of 0.2 degrees seems trivial and almost silly to worry about.’
      • ‘For the next hour or two, they engage in serious debate, silly gossip or frivolous prattle.’
      • ‘You really think I'm supposed to marry you on the spot right now just because you answered some silly trivia question?’
      • ‘You think it's a silly and trivial innovation, well maybe, but who knows where it might lead.’
      • ‘And while the occasional privacy violation seems trivial, perhaps even silly to some readers, these abuses really do add up over time.’
      • ‘The experiments were trivial, downright silly you may say, but the theoretical implications may be profound.’
      • ‘Ack, it sounds so silly and trivial now, but I was literally shaking with rage at the time.’
      • ‘He did not want her to make his feelings sound silly and ridiculous, even if her intentions were good.’
      trivial, trifling, frivolous, footling, petty, niggling, small, slight, minor, insignificant, unimportant, inconsequential, of little account
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    2. 1.2as complement Used to convey that an activity or process has been engaged in to such a degree that someone is no longer capable of thinking or acting sensibly.
      ‘he often drank himself silly’
      ‘his mother worried herself silly over him’
      • ‘He drank himself silly and had to take a cab home.’
      • ‘But she still worried herself silly every time a visit was coming up.’
      senseless, insensible, unconscious, stupid, dopey, into a stupor, into oblivion, into senselessness, into a daze
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    3. 1.3archaic (especially of a woman, child, or animal) helpless; defenseless.
      • ‘She is silly, helpless, Irish, very poor, and 28 years of age.’
      • ‘In many of the tales the fairies are tiny, silly, helpless creatures.’


  • A foolish person (often used as a form of address)

    ‘come on, silly’
    • ‘Quit interrupting the news bulletin in that infuriating manner when you don't actually have any results at all to hand, sillies.’
    • ‘Apparently, 1/3 of American men have not had a checkup in the past year, you sillies.’
    • ‘Then he says huitlacoche is corn fungus, not a nervous breakdown, sillies.’
    nincompoop, dunce, simpleton
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  • the silly season

    • High summer regarded as the season when newspapers often publish trivial material because of a lack of important news.

      • ‘Still, it's not all bad: lack of news brings us the silly season.’
      • ‘OK, so it's August and the silly season for news, but isn't it easy to manipulate the media and get them to cover your event?’
      • ‘But then we are in the silly season, are we not to judge by newspaper news priorities.’
      • ‘It's summer, the silly season in the news business.’
      • ‘The long hot summer and the silly season, as the British tabloids call the month of August, is upon us, and what better place to be than, say, the French Riviera.’
      • ‘‘It has been a bit back to the old days this summer when the silly season really meant the silly season,’ he says.’
      • ‘Pity we get the silly season news without the weather to match.’
      • ‘Do it and once it's all over - bring on the silly season of parliamentary recess, no news, summer holidays, leather on willow so that everyone can recover.’
      • ‘It's the silly season of course and there's no news.’
      • ‘It's the silly season, when there is little news of interest to expats.’


Late Middle English (in the sense ‘deserving of pity or sympathy’): alteration of dialect seely ‘happy’, later ‘innocent, feeble’, from a West Germanic base meaning ‘luck, happiness’. The sense ‘foolish’ developed via the stages ‘feeble’ and ‘unsophisticated, ignorant’.