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Odd Adjectives
by Lionel E. Deimel

0nly recently did I realize that “friendly” is an odd word. No one thinks twice about phrases like “the friendly grocer” or “the friendly dog,” but the strangeness of “friendly” becomes apparent when we want to express, for example, that our dog exhibits friendliness in the way he wags his tail. Competent native speakers of English would recoil from “the dog wagged his tail friendly.” Chances are, they wouldn’t be too comfortable with “the dog wagged his tail friendlily,” but, technically, this is a perfectly good sentence. All the words are in the dictionary as the parts of speech required for this utterance.

In “friendly,” we have the rare adjective ending in ly, an ending most commonly found on adverbs. “Friendly” cannot be used as an adverb, but we can change the final y to i and affix the usual adverbial ending to yield “friendlily,” a word really in the dictionary, though one I must admit to never having used un-self-consciously.

A more natural sounding sentence would be “the dog wagged his tail in a friendly manner.” Alternatively, one might recast the sentence a bit to yield something like “the dog greeted us with a friendly wag of his tail.”

How rare is a word like “friendly”? After a little thought, I came up with the adjectives “comely” and “holy,” which have adverbial forms “comelily” lyand “holily,” respectively. I am hard pressed to devise credible sentences that use either of these adverbs, however. (“The priest behaved shamefully at the comedy club on open mike night, but he acted holily in church the next day,“ perhaps.)

Thinking about such unusual adjectives led me to check the Web for additional examples of adjectives ending in ly. There are more than I expected. It didn’t take long to compile the following list:

beastly
bimonthly
biweekly
biyearly
bodily
bristly
brotherly
bubbly
burly
chilly
comely
costly
courtly
cowardly
crinkly
crumbly
crumply
cuddly
curly
curmudgeonly
daily
dastardly
deadly
deathly
disorderly
doctorly
early
easterly
elderly
fatherly
friendly
frilly
frizzly
gentlemanly
ghastly
ghostly
giggly
goodly
grandfatherly
grandmotherly
gravelly
grisly
heavenly
hilly
holy
homely
hourly
husbandly
jolly
kindly
kingly
lawyerly
leisurely
likely
lively
lonely
lovely
lowly
manly
mannerly
matronly
mealy
measly
melancholy
miserly
monthly
motherly
nightly
northeasterly
northerly
northwesterly
oily
only
orderly
otherworldly
pearly
pebbly
pimply
portly
prickly
priestly
princely
quarterly
quarterly
queenly
rumply
saintly
scaly
scholarly
seemingly
seemly
shapely
sickly
silly
sisterly
slatternly
slovenly
sly
smelly
southeasterly
southerly
southwesterly
sparkly
spindly
spritely
squiggly
stately
steely
surly
teacherly
thistly
timely
treacly
ugly
unfriendly
ungainly
unlikely
unlovely
unruly
unseemly
unsightly
untimely
weekly
westerly
wifely
wiggly
wily
wobbly
womanly
woolly
worldly
wriggly
wrinkly
yearly

Of course, not all of these words have a corresponding adverbial form ending in lily, whether rare or not. (Other adverbs of this sort include “uglily,” “wilily,” and melancholily,” which is perhaps one of the more euphonious of these odd-sounding adverbs.) Some adjectives ending in ly are themselves also adverbs, such as “early,” “weekly,” “timely,” “kindly,” “sisterly,” “unseemly,” and “leisurely.” Others have no credible related adverb, largely because opportunities for their use are nearly inconceivable. This group includes “thistly” and “hilly.” “Sly” is unique in not having a final syllable sounding like “lee.” Its adverbial equivalent is either “slyly” or “slily,” either of which could be used without embarrassment.

Since most speakers prefer to avoid words so strange sounding that they seem made up, -lily adverbs are usually eschewed in favor locutions using “manner” (as suggested above), “fashion,” or “way”:

The dog wagged his tail in friendly manner.
The dog wagged his tail in a friendly fashion.
The dog wagged his tail in a friendly way.

On the other hand, you can amaze your friends by using “friendlily” instead.

— LED, 9/5/2009, rev. 9/15/2010

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