dirty

1 of 3

adjective

dirtier; dirtiest
1
a
: not clean or pure
dirty clothes
dirty fingernails
b
: likely to befoul or defile with a soiling substance (such as mud, dust, or grime)
dirty jobs
c
: contaminated with infecting organisms
dirty wounds
d
: containing impurities
dirty coal
2
a
: morally unclean or corrupt: such as
(1)
: indecent, vulgar
dirty jokes
a dirty movie
(2)
: dishonorable, base
a dirty trick
(3)
: unsportsmanlike
dirty players
b
: acquired by disreputable or illegal means : ill-gotten
dirty money
c
: disagreeable, distasteful, or objectionable but usually necessary (as in achieving a desired result)
hired a thug to do their dirty work
3
a
: abominable, hateful
war is a dirty business
b
: highly regrettable
a dirty shame
c
: likely to cause disgrace or scandal
dirty little secrets
4
: foggy, stormy
dirty weather
5
a
of color : not clear and bright : dullish
dirty blond
b
music : characterized by a husky, rasping, or raw tonal quality
dirty trumpet tones
6
: conveying ill-natured resentment
gave him a dirty look
dirtily adverb
dirtiness noun

dirty

2 of 3

adverb

dirtier; dirtiest
: in a dirty (see dirty entry 1) manner: such as
a
: deceptively, underhandedly
fight dirty
b
: indecently
talk dirty

dirty

3 of 3

verb

dirtied; dirtying

transitive verb

1
: to soil with a substance (such as mud or grime) : to make dirty (see dirty entry 1)
dirtied my new shoes
2
a
: to stain with dishonor : sully
tried to dirty his reputation
b
: to debase by distorting the real nature of
… their religion took most of the rural whites' pleasures away from them, dirtying sex and the human body until it was a nasty thing … Lillian Smith

Keep scrolling for more

Choose the Right Synonym for dirty

dirty, filthy, foul, nasty, squalid mean conspicuously unclean or impure.

dirty emphasizes the presence of dirt more than an emotional reaction to it.

a dirty littered street

filthy carries a strong suggestion of offensiveness and typically of gradually accumulated dirt that begrimes and besmears.

a stained greasy floor, utterly filthy

foul implies extreme offensiveness and an accumulation of what is rotten or stinking.

a foul-smelling open sewer

nasty applies to what is actually foul or is repugnant to one expecting freshness, cleanliness, or sweetness.

it's a nasty job to clean up after a sick cat

In practice, nasty is often weakened to the point of being no more than a synonym of unpleasant or disagreeable.

had a nasty fall
his answer gave her a nasty shock

squalid adds to the idea of dirtiness and filth that of slovenly neglect.

squalid slums

All these terms are also applicable to moral uncleanness or baseness or obscenity.

dirty then stresses meanness or despicableness

don't ask me to do your dirty work

, while filthy and foul describe disgusting obscenity or loathsome behavior

filthy street language
a foul story of lust and greed

, and nasty implies a peculiarly offensive unpleasantness.

a stand-up comedian known for nasty humor

Distinctively, squalid implies sordidness as well as baseness and dirtiness.

engaged in a series of squalid affairs

Example Sentences

Adjective All my socks are dirty. Try not to get your clothes dirty. I can't breathe this dirty city air. The baby has a dirty diaper. I hate listening to his dirty jokes. Adverb Watch out for her. She plays dirty. He usually wins because he fights dirty. Verb Take off your shoes to keep from dirtying the floor. Her fingers were dirtied with ink. See More
Recent Examples on the Web
Adjective
The nurse, Russian, shot him a dirty look, the look of a woman tired of men. Nicole Krauss, The New Yorker, 26 Sep. 2022 The Carns family, from Orland Park, was leaving with a very happy 2-year-old, evident by his dirty hands. Hannah Kohut, Chicago Tribune, 25 Sep. 2022 To the untrained eye, these unremarkable slides seem filthy—each looks like it’s been smudged by dirty fingers. Jack Tamisiea, WIRED, 24 Sep. 2022 While there are specialized cleaners, these are usually reserved for very dirty and stuck-on grime situations. Kat De Naoum, Better Homes & Gardens, 23 Sep. 2022 Tall grass, dirty clothes and weeds poke from muddy ground where at one time there was a lawn in East Price Hill. cincinnati.com, 22 Sep. 2022 The public denigrated them as dirty and crime-prone — a threat to the good life. Gustavo Arellano, Los Angeles Times, 21 Sep. 2022 And that little dirty fact is how Diem got into the garbage business. The Indianapolis Star, 20 Sep. 2022 As the captain of the Jackass franchise, Knoxville certainly knows a thing or two about dirty humor. Christian Holub, EW.com, 19 Sep. 2022
Adverb
Carburetors were so crude and gasoline so dirty back in the day, that the small passages inside the carburetor could get blocked up with dirt. Ray Magliozz, San Diego Union-Tribune, 25 Oct. 2020
Verb
The breeze and warm summer air banished moisture and the need to dirty and wash another device. New York Times, 19 July 2022 Markings on the cup are extra helpful for quick and easy prep, as there's no need to dirty any measuring cups or spoons in the process. Brigitt Earley, Good Housekeeping, 25 May 2022 Jones includes a recipe for baked pasta that requires you to dirty exactly one pan — a casserole dish — and a small mixing bowl for the topping. Washington Post, 16 Jan. 2022 Dislikes: Anything that will dirty her pristine white coat. Scottie Andrew, CNN, 25 Nov. 2021 Refinery emissions dirty the air from the harbor area to the Inland Empire, and regulators have taken too long to get serious about curbing them. Laura Blasey, Los Angeles Times, 5 Nov. 2021 Why not dirty them up with the clink of steak knives, Mason jars (holding beer) and some live music at Pappy & Harriet’s in Pioneertown? 21. Los Angeles Times, 3 Nov. 2021 Because oil does not need to be melted and then cooled, or creamed for 5 minutes until fluffy, and is instead added straight-up to the recipe’s wet ingredients, assembly is faster and there is no need to dirty a saucepan or pull out your mixer. Washington Post, 23 June 2021 Another student complained the boy’s skin would dirty up the crayons. BostonGlobe.com, 7 July 2021 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'dirty.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History

Etymology

Adjective

see dirt

Adverb

see dirt

Verb

see dirt

First Known Use

Adjective

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Adverb

circa 1931, in the meaning defined above

Verb

1591, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of dirty was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near dirty

Cite this Entry

“Dirty.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dirty. Accessed 4 Oct. 2022.

Keep scrolling for more

Keep scrolling for more

Kids Definition

dirty 1 of 3

adjective

dirtier; dirtiest
1
: not clean
dirty clothes
2
: unfair, mean
a dirty trick
3
: not pleasant but usually necessary
a dirty job
4
: being vulgar : not decent
dirty jokes
5
: showing dislike or anger
a dirty look

dirty

2 of 3

adverb

: in an unfair or dishonest way
That team plays dirty.

dirty

3 of 3

verb

dirtied; dirtying
: to make or become unclean

Medical Definition

dirtier; dirtiest
: contaminated with infecting organisms
dirty wounds

More from Merriam-Webster on dirty

Last Updated: 29 Sep 2022

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!


Challenging Words You Should Know

  • hedgehog reading a book
  • Often used to describe “the march of time,” what does inexorable mean?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

TAKE THE QUIZ