knot·​ty | \ ˈnä-tē How to pronounce knotty (audio) \
knottier; knottiest

Definition of knotty

: marked by or full of knots especially : so full of difficulties and complications as to be likely to defy solution a knotty problem

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Other Words from knotty

knottiness noun

Choose the Right Synonym for knotty

complex, complicated, intricate, involved, knotty mean having confusingly interrelated parts. complex suggests the unavoidable result of a necessary combining and does not imply a fault or failure. a complex recipe complicated applies to what offers great difficulty in understanding, solving, or explaining. complicated legal procedures intricate suggests such interlacing of parts as to make it nearly impossible to follow or grasp them separately. an intricate web of deceit involved implies extreme complication and often disorder. a rambling, involved explanation knotty suggests complication and entanglement that make solution or understanding improbable. knotty ethical questions

Examples of knotty in a Sentence

the knotty problems that arise when every nation is part of the global marketplace the candidates cautiously gave their views on an array of knotty issues
Recent Examples on the Web The long and knotty history of Los Angeles isn’t just water speculation, oil scams, and Hollywood. Adam Rogers, Wired, "Netflix’s City of Ghosts Maps a Better Way to See LA—and Everywhere Else," 18 Mar. 2021 Yet something more complicated, more psychologically knotty, is clearly going on with the racial identity fakers described above. Helen Lewis, The Atlantic, "The Identity Hoaxers," 16 Mar. 2021 Another knotty question is which vaccines will count for the passport. Tyler Cowen, Star Tribune, "Vaccine passports could be a shot in the arm," 15 Mar. 2021 Bent metal, clamps, bars, chains, and spikes are welded into knotty forms that are at once brutal, seductive, and (because of the head-size scale) human and intimate. Jerry Saltz, Vulture, "Heartbreak and Resurrection in ‘Grief and Grievance’ at the New Museum," 25 Feb. 2021 It’s a knotty issue given the long and thorough history of Black characters who get chucked to the sidelines of fiction as easy death fodder. Kathryn Vanarendonk, Vulture, "It’s a Sin’s Clear-Eyed Look at the AIDS Crisis Has One Big Blind Spot," 19 Feb. 2021 One Shuck taught her to break open like the hinge on a knotty shell. Ian Mcnulty,, "At Sidecar, an ever-expanding New Orleans oyster bar shucks open new possibilities," 2 Feb. 2021 The play, a knotty tale of the lifelong literary rivalry between scrapping, scribbling sisters, is quintessential Kennedy: fragmentary yet coherent, blisteringly visceral yet enigmatically unique. Washington Post, "Adrienne Kennedy’s new play, ‘Etta and Ella on the Upper West Side,’ is utterly unique," 14 Jan. 2021 Taking on the doings and non-doings of the past four years will be a knotty task, not least because the current Administration has recently kept doing new things, or allowing things to be done, that could be hard to undo. Nick Paumgarten, The New Yorker, "A Dad-Rocker in the State Department," 7 Dec. 2020

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

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First Known Use of knotty

13th century, in the meaning defined above

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Time Traveler for knotty

Time Traveler

The first known use of knotty was in the 13th century

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Statistics for knotty

Last Updated

28 Mar 2021

Cite this Entry

“Knotty.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Apr. 2021.

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More Definitions for knotty



English Language Learners Definition of knotty

of wood : having many dark round marks showing where branches grew : having many knots
: difficult or complicated


knot·​ty | \ ˈnä-tē How to pronounce knotty (audio) \
knottier; knottiest

Kids Definition of knotty

1 : full of lumps, knobs, tangles, or hard spots knotty muscles knotty wood
2 : difficult sense 3 a knotty problem

More from Merriam-Webster on knotty

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for knotty

Nglish: Translation of knotty for Spanish Speakers

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