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dowdier; dowdiest
: not neat or becoming in appearance : shabby
a dowdy old hat
: lacking smartness or taste
a dowdy room
: old-fashioned
a dowdy institution
dowdily adverb
dowdiness noun
dowdyish adjective


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noun (1)

plural dowdies
: a dowdy woman


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noun (2)

Examples of dowdy in a Sentence

Adjective She played a dowdy old woman in the film. the dowdy, beat-up furniture at the cheap motel
Recent Examples on the Web
Cooks working for wealthy white families were made to wear dowdy uniforms despite their critical roles in shaping Southern foodways and culture. Dolen Perkins-Valdez, Bon Appétit, 13 Sep. 2023 The priest, Jean-Daniel Lafontant, had come from Haiti to help reopen the House of World Cultures, Berlin’s distinguished but dowdy center for non-European arts and ideas. Siddhartha Mitter, New York Times, 4 Sep. 2023 The jiggly snack’s logo and packaging are getting a whole new look, their first in a decade, as owner Kraft Heinz looks to revitalize the dowdy brand. Jordan Valinsky, CNN, 27 July 2023 The trade-off is dowdy manners on back roads, where the body is controlled but floaty. Sam Smith, Car and Driver, 24 July 2023 A certain jadedness may be forgiven the modern child, who is growing up amid sensory dazzlements that can make real life seem dowdy in comparison. Meghan Cox Gurdon, WSJ, 16 June 2023 Like a rushee with a dowdy demeanor, a quirky personality and an empty bank account. John Archibald |, al, 26 Jan. 2023 Maybe your powder room has a case of The Sads, with dowdy wallpaper and a timeworn faucet. Kathryn O'Shea-Evans, House Beautiful, 1 Apr. 2021 But as the track barrels into the towering chorus, the men rip off Pearson’s dowdy green cardigan to reveal a sleeveless turtleneck, and Moore really puts the power into power ballad. Gil Kaufman, Billboard, 27 Jan. 2022 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'dowdy.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Noun (1)

diminutive of dowd dowdy, from Middle English doude

Noun (2)

origin unknown

First Known Use


1676, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Noun (1)

1581, in the meaning defined above

Noun (2)

1936, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of dowdy was in 1581

Dictionary Entries Near dowdy

Cite this Entry

“Dowdy.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


dowdier; dowdiest
: not neatly or well dressed or cared for
: not stylish

More from Merriam-Webster on dowdy

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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