frow·​sy | \ ˈfrau̇-zē How to pronounce frowsy (audio) \
variants: or frowzy
frowsier or frowzier; frowziest

Definition of frowsy

1 : musty, stale a frowsy smell of stale beer and stale smoke— W. S. Maugham
2 : having a slovenly or uncared-for appearance a couple of frowsy stuffed chairs— R. M. Williams

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Did You Know?

The exact origins of this approximately 330-year-old word may be lost in some frowsy, old book somewhere, but some etymologists have speculated that "frowsy" (also spelled "frowzy") shares a common ancestor with the younger, chiefly British word frowsty, a synonym of "frowsy" in both its senses. That ancestor could be the Old French word frouste, meaning "ruinous" or "decayed," or the now mostly obsolete English word frough or frow, meaning "brittle" or "fragile." The English dramatist Thomas Otway is the first person (as far as we know) to have used "frowsy" in print. In his comedy "The Souldier's Fortune," published in 1681, the character Beau refers to another character as "a frouzy Fellmonger."

Examples of frowsy in a Sentence

a frowsy family living in wretched poverty the abandoned house was dank and frowsy and barely fit for human habitation
Recent Examples on the Web Before the current renovation of the franchised hotels, the rooms looked as if they were stuck in a fussy, frowsy 1980s floral rut., "Howard Johnson looks back to restyle its hotels for the future - The Boston Globe," 3 Oct. 2019

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

First Known Use of frowsy

1681, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for frowsy

origin unknown

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Cite this Entry

“Frowsy.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 Mar. 2021.

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English Language Learners Definition of frowsy

US, informal : having a messy or dirty appearance

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