from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • adjective Of, relating to, or devoted to the material world, especially in contrast to spiritual concerns.
  • adjective Experienced in human affairs; sophisticated or worldly-wise.
  • adverb In a worldly manner.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • In a worldly manner; with relation to this life.
  • Of or pertaining to the world or the present state of existence; temporal; earthly.
  • Secular: opposed to monastic.
  • Devoted to, interested in, or connected with this present life, and its cares, advantages, or pleasures, to the exclusion of those of a future life; desirous of temporal benefit or enjoyment merely; earthly, as opposed to heavenly or spiritual; carnal; sordid; vile: as, worldly lusts, cares, affections, pleasures; worldly men.
  • =Syn.1. Mundane, terrestrial, sublunary.
  • 1 and Worldly, Secular, Temporal, Earthly, Earthy, Unspiritual, Carnal. Worldly means of the world, in fact or in spirit, in distinction from that which is above the world; as applying to mind, it indicates a pleasure in the things that belong to the external life and a disregard of spiritual or even intellectual pleasures: it is opposed to spiritual, expressing positively what unspiritual expresses negatively. Secular is opposed to sacred or to ecclesiastical: as, there are six secular days in the week; the secular arm. Secular and temporal are rarely used in a bad sense. Temporal is opposed to spiritual or eternal: as, lords temporal; merely temporal concerns. Earthly has, like worldly, the sense of mundane, but in the sense of unspirituality it suggests more of grossness or groveling, a thought which is carried still further by earthy, although earthy is not often used in that sense. Carnal suggests that which belongs to the gratification of the animal nature; it ranges from the merely unspiritual to the sensual. See sensual and temporal.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • adjective Relating to the world; human; common
  • adjective Pertaining to this world or life, in contradistinction from the life to come; secular; temporal; devoted to this life and its enjoyments; bent on gain.
  • adjective obsolete Lay, as opposed to clerical.
  • adverb With relation to this life; in a worldly manner.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • adjective Concerned with human or earthly matters, physical as opposed to spiritual.
  • adjective Concerned with secular rather than sacred matters.
  • adjective Sophisticated, especially because of surfeit; versed in the ways of the world.
  • adverb In a worldly manner.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adjective characteristic of or devoted to the temporal world as opposed to the spiritual world
  • adjective very sophisticated especially because of surfeit; versed in the ways of the world


Sorry, no etymologies found.


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  • I find this adjective very interesting in terms of its connotational semantics. Part of a religious upbringing set Century #4 as the chief definition in my mind, thus establishing it as a negative adjective; but most instances I hear nowadays are along the lines of American Heritage #2, a generally positive attribution. Nevertheless I retain a negative impression on hearing this word and have to artificially remember its positive use.

    July 26, 2011