knot·​ty ˈnä-tē How to pronounce knotty (audio)
knottier; knottiest
: marked by or full of knots
especially : so full of difficulties and complications as to be likely to defy solution
a knotty problem
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 In the tavern, knotty wood panels punctuate the soaring brick walls, and amber votives cast a warm glow. Tom Sietsema, Washington Post, 27 Jan. 2023 In the Perelman center’s case, the structural challenge was building it over four underground stories of knotty, immovable infrastructure — a maze of train tracks, ventilation ducts and truck ramps that service the World Trade Center site. Michael Kimmelman, New York Times, 13 Sep. 2023 At first, the knotty questions were a springboard for curiosity. Jen Yamato, Los Angeles Times, 11 Sep. 2023 Too often, though, the agency’s responses don’t reflect the knotty, complicated realities of abusive relationships, advocates say. Elizabeth Koh,, 9 Sep. 2023 Pallets typically are made of wood leftover from manufacturing, which is knottier than wood used for furniture or even high-end fencing. Taylor Augustin, House Beautiful, 22 Aug. 2023 These are knotty questions in an environment in which clinician burnout is high and time pressures are often overwhelming. Miriam A. Bredella and Robert M. Wachter, STAT, 25 May 2023 Workers and their advocates say filing a claim is a knotty experience of complicated paperwork and slow, sometimes years-long, response times. Elizabeth Both, NBC News, 7 Aug. 2023 It’s been an ingredient in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine for centuries, and can be found in a variety of plants, including barberry, a shrub with tart berries, and goldenseal, a perennial herb with a thick, knotty root. WIRED, 31 July 2023 See More

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

Word History

First Known Use

13th century, in the meaning defined above

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

Dictionary Entries Near knotty

Cite this Entry

“Knotty.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


knot·​ty ˈnät-ē How to pronounce knotty (audio)
knottier; knottiest
: full of knots
knotty wood
: difficult sense 2b
a knotty problem

More from Merriam-Webster on knotty

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