fus·​ty ˈfə-stē How to pronounce fusty (audio)
fustier; fustiest
British : impaired by age or dampness : moldy
: saturated with dust and stale odors : musty
: rigidly old-fashioned or reactionary
fustily adverb
fustiness noun

Did you know?

Fusty probably derives from the Middle English word foist, meaning "wine cask," which in turn traces to the Medieval Latin word fustis, meaning "tree trunk" or "wood." So how did fusty end up meaning "old-fashioned"? Originally, it described wine that had gotten stale from sitting in the cask for too long; fusty literally meant that the wine had the "taste of the cask." Eventually any stale food, especially damp or moldy food, was called "fusty." Those damp and moldy connotations were later applied to musty places, and later still to anything that had lost its freshness and interest—that is, to anything old-fashioned.

Choose the Right Synonym for fusty

malodorous, stinking, fetid, noisome, putrid, rank, fusty, musty mean bad-smelling.

malodorous may range from the unpleasant to the strongly offensive.

malodorous fertilizers

stinking and fetid suggest the foul or disgusting.

prisoners were held in stinking cells
the fetid odor of skunk cabbage

noisome adds a suggestion of being harmful or unwholesome as well as offensive.

a stagnant, noisome sewer

putrid implies particularly the sickening odor of decaying organic matter.

the putrid smell of rotting fish

rank suggests a strong unpleasant smell.

rank cigar smoke

fusty and musty suggest lack of fresh air and sunlight, fusty also implying prolonged uncleanliness, musty stressing the effects of dampness, mildew, or age.

a fusty attic
the musty odor of a damp cellar

Examples of fusty in a Sentence

The trunk was full of fusty clothing. couldn't stay too long in the fusty attic without sneezing
Recent Examples on the Web The deliciously macabre displays of taxidermy are a highlight, but the museum also manages to avoid feeling too fusty by bringing in contemporary artists to produce works in conversation with its collections, from Sterling Ruby to Jeff Koons. Elise Taylor, Vogue, 16 June 2024 Laugh-track shows were coming to seem not just condescending but also stiff and fusty. Jacob Stern, The Atlantic, 15 Apr. 2024 What this absolutism produced, of course, was not another fusty neo-Edwardian novel à la Orwell’s earlier Keep the Aspidistra Flying, but a wild, aggrieved tour de force of dystopian erotica. Stephen Metcalf, The Atlantic, 5 Apr. 2024 There was the peculiar name, which conjured visions of a fusty baron. Daniel Miller, Los Angeles Times, 27 Mar. 2024 Chamber music as an art form dates back to the late 1700s which presents a problem for a young, dynamic ensemble: how to make chamber music feel less, well, fusty? Neda Ulaby, NPR, 3 Mar. 2024 The Unlikely Return of Lace: In fashion as well as products for the home, lace — once seen as the fustiest of fabrics — is suddenly looking fresh. Mark Kean Raphael Hirsch, New York Times, 1 Mar. 2024 But her habit of getting great dirt, along with her lightning-fast publishing speed and gleeful prose style, made the age-old daily papers and trade publications seem fusty by comparison. Jacob Bernstein, New York Times, 21 Jan. 2023 Her characters already feel contemporary... and the idea of these vibrant, bright, modern feeling girls arriving like whirlwinds into the fusty, traditional drawing rooms of Victorian London is irresistible. Los Angeles Times Staff, Los Angeles Times, 10 Nov. 2023

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

Word History


probably alteration of Middle English foisted, foist musty, from foist wine cask, from Anglo-French fust, fuist wood, tree trunk, cask, from Medieval Latin fustis

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of fusty was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near fusty

Cite this Entry

“Fusty.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fusty. Accessed 24 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition


fus·​ty ˈfəs-tē How to pronounce fusty (audio)
fustier; fustiest
: full of dust and stale odors : musty
: very old-fashioned
fustily adverb
fustiness noun
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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