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From Middle English likelyliklylyklylikliche, from Old English ġelīclīċ (likely) and Old Norse líkligr (likely), both from Proto-Germanic *līkalīkaz, equivalent to like +‎ -ly.



likely (comparative likelier or more likelysuperlative likeliest or most likely)

  1. probable; having a greater-than-even chance of occurring
    Rain is likely later this afternoon.
  2. (as predicate, followed by to and infinitive) Reasonably to be expected; apparently destined, probable
    They are likely to become angry with him.
    He is likely to succeed at anything he tries.
  3. appropriate, suitable; believable; having a good potential
    Jones is a likely candidate for management.
  4. plausible; within the realm of credibility
    not a very likely excuse.
  5. promising; apt to achieve success or yield a desired outcome
    likely topic for investigation.
  6. attractive; pleasant
    I found a likely spot under a shady tree for the picnic.
  7. (obsolete) Similar; like; alike.


likely (plural likelies)

  1. Something or somebody considered likely.


likely (comparative more likelysuperlative most likely(US)

  1. (obsolete) Similarly.
  2. Probably.
    Likely he’ll win the election in this economy.

Usage notes

  • The adverb is more common in US English than in British English.
  • As an adverb, likely is often preceded by a modifier such as most or quite.
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