sly

sly, cunning, crafty, tricky, foxy, insidious, wily, guileful, artful are comparable when they mean having or showing a disposition to attain one's ends by devious or indirect means.
Sly implies a lack of candor which shows itself in secretiveness, in suggestiveness rather than in frankness, in underhandedness, or in furtiveness or duplicity in one's dealings with others
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with knowing leer and words of sly import— Irving

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because the state is hostile, writers have become sly, circumspect and disingenuous— Philip Toynbee

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More often than the remaining words, sly is used with weakened force to imply a lightly arch or roguish quality
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he was unpretentious, earnest, full of sly humor— Rollo Brown

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Cunning (see also CLEVER 2) stresses the use of intelligence in overreaching or circumventing; nevertheless, it often suggests sly inventiveness rather than a high-grade mentality, and a perverted sense of morality
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every man wishes to be wise, and they who cannot be wise are almost always cunningJohnson

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all gods are cruel, bitter, and to be bribed, but women- gods are mean and cunning as well— Bottomley

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the fellow's eyes were now sly and cunning as a cat's, now hard and black as basalt— Wolfe

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Crafty also implies a use of intelligence but it usually suggests a higher order of mentality than cunning: that of one capable of devising stratagems and adroit in deception
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he disappointeth the devices of the crafty, so that their hands cannot perform their enterprise— Job 5:12

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as a crafty envoy does his country's business by dint of flirting and conviviality— Montague

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crafty senior tactician for the Republicans and a man with an astonishing record of maintaining politi-cal control of his county— Michener

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Tricky usually suggests unscrupulousness and chicanery in dealings with others; in general it connotes shiftiness and unreliability rather than skill in deception or in maneuvering
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here was Woman, with a capital W, tricky and awful, inconstant as the weather— Styron

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he avoided the mean and tricky : he was always an honorable foe— W. C. Ford

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Foxy implies shrewdness in dodging discovery or in practicing deceptions so that one may follow one's own devices or achieve one's own ends; it usually connotes experience and is rarely applied to the young or to novices
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where one was legitimate—and a foxy play—the other was a snide trick— Lieb

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this time the lecherous Alsatian uses a foxier gambit to achieve his ends— Perelman

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a foxy old man

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Insidious suggests a lying in wait or a gradualness of effect or approach and applies especially to devious and carefully masked underhandedness
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an insidious tempter

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persuaded that these people ... are all part of an insidious conspiracy to undermine the world as he knows it— Edmund Wilson

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thatformof bias which is most insidious, precisely because it pretends to be unbiased— Moberly

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Wily and guileful stress an attempt to ensnare or entrap; they usually imply treacherous astuteness or sagacity and a lack of scruples regarding the means to one's end
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nor trust in the guileful heart and the murder-loving hand— Morris

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shun the insidious arts that Rome provides, less dreading from her frown than from her wily praise— Wordsworth

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the headmaster, wily, had not confiscated these articles; he had merely informed the parents concerned— Bennett

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Artful implies insinuating or alluring indirectness of dealing; it usually also connotes sophistication or coquetry or clever designs
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being artful, she cajoled him with honeymouthed flattery until his suspicion was quieted— John Bennett

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oddly enough, they stayed sober. The artful Henry had told them that all the wine in Panama was poisoned— Chidsey

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Analogous words: furtive, clandestine, stealthy, covert (see SECRET): devious, oblique, *crooked: astute, *shrewd

New Dictionary of Synonyms. 2014.

Synonyms:

Look at other dictionaries:

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  • Sly — Sly, a. [Compar. {Slier}or {Slyer}; superl. {Sliest} or {Slyest}.] [OE. sli, slegh, sleih, Icel. sl?gr, for sl?gr; akin to Sw. slug, Dan. slu, LG. slou, G. schlau; probably to E. slay, v.t.; cf. G. verschlagen sly. See {Slay}, v. t., and cf.… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Sly — is an adjective, meaning one of the following:#Clever in practical matters. #Hiding ones true intentions or goals.Its synonyms are cunning and roguish .Sly is also a proper masculine name, short for Sylvester. It is the name of several famous… …   Wikipedia

  • sly — [ slaı ] adjective 1. ) clever at tricking people or at secretly doing unfair or dishonest things 2. ) a sly smile, look, or remark shows that the person doing it knows something that other people do not know: He made a sly reference to the… …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • sly — [slaı] adj [Date: 1200 1300; : Old Norse; Origin: slœgr] 1.) someone who is sly cleverly deceives people in order to get what they want = ↑cunning 2.) sly smile/glance/wink etc a smile, look etc that shows you know something secret ▪ He leaned… …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • sly — c.1200, from O.N. sloegr cunning, crafty, sly, from P.Gmc. *slogis (Cf. Low Ger. slu cunning, sly ), probably from base *slog hit (see SLAY (Cf. slay)), with an original notion of able to hit. Cf. Ger. verschlagen cunning, crafty, sly,… …   Etymology dictionary

  • sly — [slī] adj. slier or slyer, sliest or slyest [ME sley < ON slœgr, clever, cunning, lit., able to strike < base of slā & OE slean, to strike: see SLAY] 1. Dial. skillful or clever 2. skillful at trickery or deceit; crafty; wily 3. showing a… …   English World dictionary

  • SLY — est un groupe de heavy metal japonais créé en 1994, formé d ex membres de groupe populaires, notamment le chanteur Minoru Niihara et le batteur Munetaka Higuchi, alors ex membres du groupe Loudness. Après la séparation de SLY en 1998, ils… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • sly — ► ADJECTIVE (slyer, slyest) 1) having a cunning and deceitful nature. 2) (of a remark, glance, or expression) insinuating. 3) (of an action) surreptitious. ● on the sly Cf. ↑on the sly …   English terms dictionary

  • sly|ly — «SLY lee», adverb. in a sly manner; secretly. Also, slily …   Useful english dictionary

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