Student Dictionary

One entry found for surly.
Main Entry: sur·ly
Pronunciation: primarystresssschwar-lemacron
Function: adjective
Inflected Form(s): sur·li·er; -est
Etymology: Middle English serreli "lordly, imperious," from sir "a man of rank"
: having a rude unfriendly disposition
- sur·li·ness noun
Word History The word surly, which describes someone with a very bad temper, was at one time spelled sirly. It comes from the familiar word sir, which has been used for centuries as a title of respect for a gentleman or nobleman. Sirly was originally used to describe a person who behaves in a very proud way -- the kind of person who might insist on being called "sir." It was similar in meaning to the word lordly. Many years of use brought about the changes in spelling and in meaning that have given us the modern word surly.

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