Definition of sully in US English:



[with object]literary
  • Damage the purity or integrity of; defile.

    ‘they were outraged that anyone should sully their good name’
    • ‘After months of in-fighting between FIFA's rulers when football's name was sullied by unsavoury allegations, the top players have proved that ultimately the game is all about them and the fans.’
    • ‘If anyone thinks I have merely sullied the name of a so-called great writer, they are mistaken.’
    • ‘None of what's said above is meant to sully the good names of my graduate programs, advisors, colleagues, or students.’
    • ‘The pressing moral issue now is that four Donegal women who had put in a total of 70 years dedicated voluntary service had their professional integrity and reputations sullied when they did absolutely nothing wrong.’
    • ‘Some people presumably didn't want their quest for pure money sullied with dirty ideology.’
    • ‘The way in which that particular woman was treated, and the fact that she was not a virgin at the time of the rape, meant that she had her reputation sullied and muddied in open court, and it said to me that the law had to change.’
    • ‘The two heavyweights who have sullied their reputations with dirty tactics in several bouts are scheduled to fight Friday night in the Palace at Auburn Hills.’
    • ‘One bright spot is the marked decline in the gangland-style killings that sullied Macau's image in the period immediately before the handover.’
    • ‘Our Anthony has a picture of Britain in his head that must on no account be sullied by contact with grubby reality.’
    • ‘A thing so cheap, so tacky, so sordid that I scarcely dare sully these pages with an account of it.’
    • ‘It is one thing to criticize your brothers; it's another to sully the family name.’
    • ‘Tony was reluctant to let anyone else touch the wallet, as if alien fingers might sully the purity of his dad's memory.’
    • ‘I don't think so, and far from sullying the name of Hogan, it would embellish it.’
    • ‘Here, in a beautiful image which combines the motifs of the sweet exchange and of unveiling, he shows how we were taught purity by one who sullied himself for our sake.’
    • ‘Please publish this letter as a retraction, and in the future be wary of those who might try to sully my good name.’
    • ‘I am not going to stand idly back to watch any of the democratic ideals that made Canada the envy of nations be injured, sullied or disgraced.’
    • ‘In most, if not all, ancient religions with a belief in reincarnation, the soul entering a body is seen as a metaphysical demotion, a sullying and impure rite of passage.’
    • ‘Hundreds of Pakistani women are murdered for ‘honour’ every year, usually by relatives who argue that love marriages or affairs sully their name.’
    • ‘What is really a shame is that his good name has been sullied by people who have not bothered to read what he wrote.’
    • ‘The fact that literature is an ideological construct enables us to answer the objection that by turning to literature to address legal problems we sully the integrity of art with our political agendas.’
    taint, defile, soil, tarnish, stain, blemish, besmirch, befoul, contaminate, pollute, spoil, mar, spot, make impure, disgrace, dishonour, injure, damage
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Late 16th century: perhaps from French souiller ‘to soil’.